When my 10 year old son confided that he identified more as a Mexican-American because no one in his school was Cuban—or even knew where Cuba was—I gasped. My mind traveled back to the future.
Growing up as a Cuban-American, I felt culturally confused. My family was from this country that I did not know much about.
As a young girl, I loved books and never saw a Cuban-American character portrayed in literature. I longed to see a protagonist that symbolized my culture’s representation—especially since I had never been to Cuba and almost all my family lived there. I desperately longed for something to connect through my love language—reading. How I wish I would have had All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle as a child to get a glimpse of the sights, people and life on the island.
I’m on a mission to immerse my multicultural children (Mexican-Cuban-American) in stories that they can see ALL their races represented. I loved how Millo—from the picture book—Drum Dream Girl, has three ethnic backgrounds like my children.
Here are some summary snippets of culturally diverse pictures books that we love and have in our home library. I hope you add them to your family’s library or better yet—take your kiddos to the local library so you can check them out for free and read together.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle illustrated by Rafael Lopez
“Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.”
All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle illustrated by Mike Curato
“Together, a boy and his parents drive to the city of Havana, Cuba, in their old family car. Along the way, they experience the sights and sounds of the streets―neighbors talking, musicians performing, and beautiful, colorful cars putt-putting and bumpety-bumping along. In the end, though, it’s their old car, Cara Cara, that the boy loves best. A joyful celebration of the Cuban people and their resourceful innovation.”
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale by Carmen Agra Deedy illustrated by Michael Austin
“Martina the beautiful cockroach doesn’t know coffee beans about love and marriage.
That’s where her Cuban family comes in. While some of the Cucarachas offer her gifts to make her more attractive, only Abuela, her grandmother, gives her something really useful: un consejo increíble, some shocking advice. At first, Martina is skeptical of her Abuela’s unorthodox suggestion, but when suitor after suitor fails the Coffee Test, she wonders if a little green cockroach can ever find true love. Soon, only the gardener Pérez, a tiny brown mouse, is left. But what will happen when Martina offers him café cubano?”
*My great aunt and Madrina gifted this book to Abby—I love them immensely!*