Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives
This collection of short memoir offers an insightful glimpse into the lives of young Latinos in the United States.
Edited by Sarah Cortez
Introduction by Virgil Suarez
Publication Date: April 30, 2007
Format: Trade Paperback
Imprint: Piñata Books
Ages: 16 and up
“They never thought I would leave. I remember Tia Olivia calling the house to let me know that I was betraying my family by leaving to study. But unlike both of my parents, I wasn’t leaving the country to let years pass before seeing my family again; and unlike my mother, I wasn’t leaving to get married.” In this short but powerful memoir, Marisol explains that she knew her departure for Yale would create conflict with her family, but she is surprised that her leaving leads to a bond with her parents that she could never have imagined.
Marisol is one of thirty-six Latinos whose writings are included in this collection. They all uniquely document their struggles with the issues that young people encounter—friendship, death, anorexia, divorce, sexuality—but added to these difficulties are those specific to their ethnicity, such as adjusting to a new culture and language, and handling familial and cultural expectations that can limit their hopes and dreams but just as often enrich their lives.
In one piece, a young woman muses about the safety in the hills of her native Honduras compared to the flat expanse of her new homeland: “When I venture back into these silver hills, no one can see where I’ve gone because of the curves of the winding streets. But when I walk the flat roads of America, people can watch me go, trace my path and witness the inevitable stumble.”
These short essays written by young men and women from various Latino backgrounds—Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Salvadoran—reflect the diversity of growing up Latino in the United States. Whether from a gay or straight, urban or rural, recent immigrant or third generation perspective, these illuminating pieces of memoir shine a light into the lives of young Hispanic adults.
2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award
“Cortez’s collection of essays evokes powerful images of a segment of society struggling to find its place despite language barriers, cultural differences and historical challenges. It should be a must-read book in every high school senior-level English class due to its thought provoking subject matter.”—San Antonio Express-News
“This collection illuminates both the familiar coming-of-age experiences that transcend cultural differences and the monuments that are unique to Latinos in the States.”—School Library Journal
SARAH CORTEZ, a native Houstonian and member of the Texas Institute of Letters, is the author of an acclaimed poetry collection, How to Undress a Cop, winner of the PEN Texas literary award in poetry. She has edited Urban Speak: Poetry of the City and Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives, winner of the 2008 Skipping Stones Honor Award. She has also edited Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books), and You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens, and has co-edited Our Lost Border: Life amid the Narco-Violence with Sergio Troncoso. In 2012, her memoir in poetry and prose, Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston, was published by Texas Review Press and was hailed by the Houston Chronicle as “a love letter to the city of Houston.” A collection of poetry from the urban street cop’s perspective, Cold Blue Steel, was published by Texas Review Press in 2013.
Her writing has appeared in The Sun, Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century, The Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, The Texas Review, New Texas, Louisiana Literature, Blue Rock Review, Pennsylvania English, The Midwest Quarterly and many other publications. Her work is widely anthologized in collections by Penguin, the Great Books Foundation, and other international publishers.
Ms. Cortez was chosen by then-mayor of Houston, Bill White, to compose and deliver his inaugural poem in 2003. The United Nations tapped Ms. Cortez to compose and deliver a poem for the Eighth Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2009 in New York City. One of her poems was chosen for the national “Poetry in Motion” program, which places poems in city buses, and was featured on placards on METRO buses in August 2002. One of Cortez’s recent honors was having a poem chosen out of over 6,000 submissions for an Honorable Mention in the 2011 annual poetry contest by Rattle, an internationally prestigious poetry journal.
A dedicated, long-time educator, Ms. Cortez has taught poetry and memoir to students ranging from third graders to senior citizens. She taught creative writing for six years at the University of Houston-Central in addition to teaching throughout the community through Writers in the Schools, The C.G. Jung Center, Inprint, The River, and COH Multi-Service Centers. She is an inspiring and energetic teacher in every genre—poetry, memoir, fiction, and essay, and her forte is working with students who are not confident in their writing skills. One of her specialties is working with students who are scared to write. In the fall of 2012, she served as a Writing Consultant for HISD, working with Latino teens.
She is a poised public speaker, whether teaching, reading poetry on panels or in larger venues, Ms. Cortez has chaired presentations at the state and national conventions of the Texas Library Association, the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, Associated Writing Programs Conference, the Texas Book Festival and many others.
Ms. Cortez received her bachelor’s degree from Rice University and continued her education to also receive two advanced degrees, one from the University of Texas-Austin and one from the University of Houston-Central.
ATOS Interest Level: Upper Grades
Category: Young Adult