Rebeldita, a little heroine standing against the ICE "ogres"
In this children's book, Honduran Oriel Maria Siu explores the drama of migration from an empowering perspective for children.
When Dr. Oriel Maria Siu had her daughter Suletu in 2013, she had already lived in the United States for 16 years. Born in Honduras to a Chinese-Nicaraguan father and a Salvadoran Pipil mother, the academic, teacher, and children's book author realized the tremendous difficulty she had finding children's books where the protagonists were children of color or that did not approach diversity from a very naïve point of view.
This fact and the deportation of her brother-in-law, in 2011, causing her niece — then a child — to grow up far from her father, filled the author with indignation.
It happened during a mandate from then-President Barack Obama's and by the end of it, some 3 million people were deported.
Although for Oriel Maria Siu, the separation of families and the brutal immigration policy did not begin with Obama or Trump. She told El Tecolote that it is in the very core of the country.
"The act of forcibly removing and separating non-white families, making people of color deportable, goes back to the very birth of the United States," Siu said.
Seeking to create another narrative around the immigrant drama and deportation policy, which greatly affects Central Americans, Dr. Siu published the children's book Rebeldita la Alegre en el País de los Ogros (Rebel the Joyful in the Land of Ogres).
And one can already imagine who the "ogres" really are, who the brave and funny mestizo, immigrant protagonist faces in a land where these beings imprison whoever is not like them.
After the character of Rebeldita and her efforts to help her friend Florecita, whose father was deported, she decided to tell the story of a girl who "does not remain silent in the face of injustice, who understands and knows the history of occupied America and its borders," said the writer.
"And a character who understands the joy and power of collectivity, rebellion, and her own ancestral story of resistance and survival, was born out of the thousands of children I saw on the streets when we protested Obama's 3 million deportations, and the need to expose this long history of family separation in the United States," she added.
Most of the empowering rhymes in the book were written by Dr. Siu in collaboration with her daughter, and are illustrated by Siu's sister, muralist Alicia Maria Siu.
There are also many details in both the characters and how they dress give nods to the enormous diversity of Latin America and to the African and indigenous roots of the protagonist, who is "a child born of the realities of occupied America. It is the survival and resistance of the Blacks and Browns on this continent."
One of Rebeldita's virtues that she hopes to transmit to her young readers is the knowledge of the past to change her present, in addition to her desire to become visible and to listen.
Although Rebeldita la Alegre en el País de los Ogros is published only in Spanish by Izote Press, this coming January, it will be published in English with the translation by Matthew Byrne.
The second book in the series of Rebeldita will also be released in bookstores this summer, and tells the story of the first Ogre to arrive in the Americas, Christopher Columbus.
Meanwhile, enjoy the adventures of a "border breaker" who believes in justice and the right of children and their parents to live happily.