Rivera Award honors Sanchez for
novel that empowers teens, heritage
By Billi London-Gray
Alex Sanchez, an acclaimed writer of young adult fiction, will be honored with the 2011 Tomás Rivera Children’s Book Award, given by Texas State University, for his novel Bait. A talk and book signing by the author will be held Thursday, Oct. 20, from 10-11:30 a.m. in the LBJ Student Center Ballroom. The Rivera Award celebration will be held that evening from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Wittliff Collections in the Alkek Library.
Sanchez, a former youth and family counselor, has been recognized for his previous novels — including the Lambda Award-winning So Hard to Say, the Meyers Award-winning Getting It, The God Box and the Rainbow Boys trilogy — which address themes of acceptance, tolerance, gay teen identity, friendship and empowerment. His 2010 novel, Bait, depicts the emotional journey of a troubled 16-year-old boy named Diego, who is helped by his probation officer, Mr. Vidas. Together they examine Diego’s past experiences of abuse and the patterns of behavior arising from those experiences.
“Bait stands out for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. Jesse Gainer, director of the Rivera Award and professor of language and literacy at Texas State. “It is well written and addresses important and sensitive issues in a way that is powerful but still accessible for young adult readers. The characters are well developed and complicated. The book has strong messages of overcoming adversity, transformation and empowerment.”
The College of Education at Texas State developed the Rivera Award in 1995 to recognize authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. The award considers works in two categories: Works for Older Children/Young Adult (ages 13-18) and Works for Younger Children (birth to age 12), with each category under consideration in alternate years. The annual winner is selected by a five-member panel of experts in Mexican American children’s literature. The 2011 selection committee considered more than 40 books in the young adult category.
“The Rivera Award is important,” Gainer says. “The books (selected) resist stereotyping and offer complicated views into a diverse community that has been historically marginalized in books, schooling and society. It is important for all people, not just Mexican American people, to have access to multicultural literature that serves as mirrors, windows and doors for readers to see themselves and others represented on the pages. Our mission is to get these books into the hands of teachers, parents and especially children.”
Tomás Rivera, in whose honor the annual award is given, was the first Mexican American to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from Texas State. After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas State, he went on to become chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. In addition to his career in education, Rivera was a lifelong writer, publishing works in both English and Spanish while promoting Mexican American literature throughout the United States, Mexico and Europe.
Nov. 1 is the submission deadline for the 2012 Rivera Award, which will be given to a Work for Younger Children. The next Work for Older Children award will be given in 2013. The winner is typically announced each February, with celebrations following in October. Find more information about submission guidelines here.
In addition to his talk at Texas State, Sanchez will present at the Texas Book Festival as part of its Tomás Rivera Book Award session on Saturday, Oct. 22, from 1:30-2:15 p.m., at the Capitol Extension Room E2.026.