'Shine On, Luz Véliz!': a Latino girl struggles to find her way
Bi-cultural author Rebecca Balcárcel writes about a Latino girl who dreams to be a soccer player but a knee injury forces her to reinvent herself
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Rebecca Balcárcel grew up in a small town in Iowa until her family moved to Texas when she turned ten. Though she missed the huge trees of Iowa, Balcárcel appreciated the Spanish speaking going on in Texas.
“It was then that I realized I could embrace both sides of my Guatemalan-American heritage. I not only love corn on the cob; I love corn tortillas!,” she wrote at her website.
Today Balcárcel is a well-known children’s book author as well as an Associate professor of English at Tarrant County College, Texas. Her first novel, The Other Half of Happy (2019), was a Pure Belpré Honor Medal winner. The book tells the story of Quijana, a half-Latina, half-Anglo seventh grader who does not speak Spanish, does not like Don Quixote, and is definitely not going to Guatemala for winter break. But is she happy being half?
A3: I always asked my dad about the Spanish in my books to make sure I was getting the Guatemalan version, such as how they say pelota rather than bol. I also try to make the recipes in my books, as when I melted this cho-co-lah-te in milk! My favorite kind of research!#LasMusas pic.twitter.com/AIutMB1Zz3— Rebecca Balcárcel - SHINE ON, LUZ VÉLIZ! is out! (@r_balcarcel) September 29, 2022
On May 2022, Balcárcel published her second novel, “Shine On, Luz Véliz!,” also staring a Latino character. In this case, the author tells the story of Luz Véliz, a young girl who dreams to be a soccer star. With her serious knee injury, it's unlikely she'll be back on the field anytime soon. But without soccer, who is she? Even her dad treats her differently now—like he doesn't know her or, worse, like he doesn't even like her. When Luz discovers she has a knack for coding, it feels like a lifeline to a better self. If she can just ace the May Showcase, she'll not only skip a level in her coding courses and impress Ms. Freeman and intriguing, brilliant Trevor—she'll have her parents cheering her on from the sidelines, just the way she likes it.
But something—someone—is about to enter the Vélizes' life. And when Solana arrives, nothing will be the same, ever again.
"From family relationships, managing anger, living a multifaceted life, caring for others, immigration, and compassion, this book tackles tough topics without ever feeling like it’s tackling tough topics," says the book review at Pawprints in the Ink.
In 2023, Balcárcel will publish "Boundless: Twenty Voices Celebrating Multicultural and Multiracial Identities", an anthology of twenty stories that center and celebrate the multiracial and multicultural experience written by award-winning and bestselling authors.