San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

October 28th, 2009
Tomas Rivera winners to give readings Thursday

The Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Winners.


Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Carmen Tafolla will be honored with the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award during a series of events beginning Thursday at Texas State.

A public reading featuring both authors will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday in the LBJ Student Center ballroom on the campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The award is for books published in 2007-2008, marking only the second time in the history of the Tomás Rivera Award that two authors’ works have tied for the honor. The Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, established at Texas State in 1995, is designed to encourage authors, illustrators and publishers to produce books that authentically reflect the lives of Mexican American children and young adults in the United States.

Sáenz won for He Forgot to Say Goodbye, and Tafolla won for The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans. The presentation will be of particular interest to high school students, teachers, pre-service secondary teachers from the College of Education, and other interested university faculty, community residents and students.

Music and snacks will be part of the celebration. The University Bookstore will bring copies of the award-winning books available for sale and signing right after the presentations.

The Tomás Rivera considers works in two categories: Works for Older Children/Young Adult and Works for Younger Children, with each category under consideration in alternate years. This year’s winners were nominated as Works for Older Children/Young Adult.

More than 40 books published in 2007 and 2008 in this category were considered for this year’s Tomás Rivera Award.

He Forgot to Say Goodbye is the coming-of-age story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Ramiro Lopez, a teen dealing with his brother’s drug addiction in a working-class Mexican-American barrio of El Paso, and Jake Upthegrove, a misfit with anger management problems from the affluent West Side. With little in common, the two discover the one thing that unites them is their abandonment by their respective fathers.

Sáenz is an American Book Award-winning author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. His published bilingual children’s books include A Gift from Papa Diego, Grandma Fina’s Wonderful Umbrella and A Perfect Season for Dreaming. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Texas-El Paso.

In The Holy Tortilla and a Pot of Beans, Tafolla humorously examines hypocrisy, prejudice and other modern myopias by weaving the story of a magical tortilla’s spiritual mission with those of a heart transplant patient’s bedside marriage, the blessing of a handful of dirt and a cross-dressing street person.

Living and writing in her hometown of San Antonio, Tafolla has cultivated a reputation as a folklorist of the Chicano-Mexicano community. Her work has been recognized at the Texas Book Festival, UCI National Literary competition and Wellington International Poetry Festival. Her children’s books include That’s Not Fair!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/ No es Justo!: La Lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la Justicia, What Can You Do with a Rebozo? and Baby Coyote and the Old Woman.

Friday, Texas State President Denise Trauth, will host an invitation-only luncheon. She will present the Rivera Award during a ceremony in which the winners will receive their prize money and commemorative plaques.

Texas State developed the Tomás Rivera Award to acknowledge authors and illustrators dedicated to depicting the values and culture of Mexican Americans. Rivera, who died in 1984, graduated from Texas State with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma.

A Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State, Rivera published his landmark novel, …y no se lo tragó la tierra/ …And the Earth Did Not Part, in 1971. In 1979, Rivera was appointed chancellor of the University of California-Riverside, the first Hispanic chancellor named to the University of California System.

For more information on the Rivera Award, visit the Rivera Award website at

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