As a non-profit organization, our mission drives what we do. Arte Público Press's mission is the publication, promotion and dissemination of Latino literature for a variety of audiences, from early childhood to adult, through the complete gamut of delivery systems, including personal performance as well as print and electronic media. In its publication and dissemination of Hispanic literature and cultural information, Arte Público Press is committed to reforming the national culture to more accurately include, value and reflect Hispanic historical and contemporary contributions.
Why is it vital to have a press devoted to the Latinx writers and stories?
It’s crucial that young Latinxs see themselves and their culture reflected positively in the media. For too long, Latinxs have been portrayed in books, movies, and television programs as thugs, gangbangers, and thieves. We actively seek to combat these negative stereotypes with books written from within the culture. How can Latinx kids even begin to dream about their futures if they don’t see people that look like them working successfully as writers, illustrators, scientists, or astronauts?
It’s just as important for non-Latinos to be exposed to the wealth, richness, and variety that is Latino culture. Hispanics have been in the geographic area that makes up the United States since before the British landed at Plymouth Rock. Especially now in the current political climate, Latinos’ contributions to this country need to be recognized.
What audiences would you like to reach that you feel you may not have reached yet?
In 1979, Arte Público started publishing books by Hispanic authors for adults. We have published many of the authors who are now well-known, including Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Nicholasa Mohr, Pat Mora, Gary Soto, Luis Valdez, and Victor Villaseñor. Our books for adults include fiction, poetry, short prose, and non-fiction.
In 1992, APP launched its project to recover the written legacy of Latinos in the geographic area that has become the United States from the colonial period to 1960: Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage.
In 1994, APP launched its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, which is dedicated to publishing culturally relevant literature for children from kindergarten through high school. As part of the kids’ book imprint, we publish bilingual picture books, bilingual “flip” books for intermediate readers, and books in either English or Spanish for teens.
So as you can see, we publish books for a wide range of audiences. The one area we have not focused on is early childhood literacy; we don’t publish board books or books with very few words. Another area we have not explored is graphic novels, which are hugely popular. Some day ….
How do you discover talent?
We meet authors at conferences and festivals. They send their work to us. Other authors/board members/readers recommend us. We have been publishing Latino literature for 40 years now, so to a certain extent we are known for being the only publishing house dedicated to Latino literature.
What sort of lasting impression do you hope your publishing company will have on society?
Our goal is for Latino art and culture to be considered AMERICAN art and culture. In 2019, as we celebrate our 40th anniversary, the National Book Critics Circle has honored Arte Público with its Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award! ¡Adelante!
Arte Público Press
What is the origin story of Yali Books?
Yali Books began as a mother-daughter collaborative project. My mom Kala, is a writer and columnist and she wanted me to illustrate a book she had written. We worked together to create Bye, Bye, Motabhai!, a zany tale that takes readers through the historic city of Ahmedabad in India—a place special to us both. The book was well received, which gave us the courage to dream bigger. We wanted to create a platform for storytellers and artists. Together, we would showcase the incredible cultural diversity, history, and natural heritage of South Asia. Through stories and art, we wanted to invite readers to learn about the places we have lived in, traveled to, or dreamed about going to, and experience the unique magic of our corner of the world.
What writers do you have on staff? How do you discover new writing talent?
We have an open call for manuscript submissions and we seek out talent on Twitter through pitch events. From the submissions we receive, we prioritize narratives from voices that have been marginalized or ignored in the past. It is deeply gratifying to be able to identify and mentor upcoming South Asian talent and provide a platform for voices that aren’t well represented in mainstream publishing. We are truly honored to be able to work with some incredible writers and artists over these few years and hope to continue to do so for many more decades to come.
Why is it important to have a publisher devoted to South Asian children’s stories?
South Asia is an incredibly diverse region—a tapestry of cultures connected by thousands of years of history. At Yali, we want to provide a glimpse into this richness through stories that reflect different experiences, that are complex and nuanced, and most importantly, authentic. By focusing on one region, we believe we have a wider platform to bring all these voices together, bringing breadth and depth to our representation of different cultures. We hear from authors who have been rejected by other publishers because ‘they already have a few books about South Asia/ns’ and feel they don’t have shelf space for more books featuring this region and its people. This also means that a handful of books are forced to represent all of us and our cultures are diminished to fit into some well-worn tropes and limited ideas. Our shelf space is unlimited and we welcome challenging, surprising, and stereotype-busting stories that push the boundaries of what it means to be South Asian today.
What obstacles have you faced as an independent publisher?
As a small press, we are constantly challenged to stretch a tiny marketing budget to publicize our titles to buyers. We currently rely on trade and customer reviews, book fairs, and creative social media promotions. Finding ways to get word of our books out to teachers, librarians and parents in effective ways is a challenge that keeps us on our toes every day.
What kind of an impact do you hope to achieve through your efforts with Yali Books?
We are driven by the belief that readers crave ‘windows and mirrors’ in the books they read – windows that open up into places and lives different from their own, and mirrors that reflect their own families and immigrant cultures. We hope to continue to offer these ‘windows and mirrors’ to many more years to come by bringing some of the color and joy of South Asia to classrooms, libraries and homes.
Ambika Sambasivan & Kala Sambasivan
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