Inspiration: Latino USA – A Cartoon History

For about ten years I have had Latino USA: A Cartoon History on my bookshelf in the back of my classroom.
I think that it is difficult for anyone in the genre of non-fiction and graphic/comics to give a title to the genre, but I think it safely falls into the “graphic non-fiction” section. I didn’t know it then, but this was going to be one of the books that inspired me to create my own graphic textbook. What I enjoy most about the book is that it uses iconic characters that narrate the history of Latinos and the integration of Latino culture in the United States. Ilan Stavans, a Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amhurst College is the author of this text and offers the reader a relaxed and semi-sarcastic vernacular that makes reading it extremely fun. Latino USA is illustrated by Lalo Alcaraz and he does not disappoint. Alcaraz uses traditional black and white with a mixture of cartoon and realism when necessary. The fonts are appropriate and to be admired, seeing as how they appear to all be inked by hand. The two are currently collaborating on a US history version to be released in 2014 so keep your eyes peeled.

There are sections of the book that are definitely considered left-wing, but other parts are quite factual.
For this reason, I am choosy about the sections that I decide to show students. What I am thrilled about however is that as I drafting my words for my culture unit’s section on language, I ran across the topic of Spanglish and recalled the same topic being described in Latino USA. I thought there would be no better way than to pay homage to my inspiration than to write the author and simply ask to use the section that was illustrated in his book. I am new to copyright issues and certainly did not expect a yes. But I was thrilled with what happened next. Not only did Ilan Stavans write back within an hour, but he also emphatically said yes! I will definitely be sending him a copy as soon as the text is complete.

Some inspiring ideas that I plan on incorporating in my graphically illustrated textbook:

  • Comic characters that narrate the story. We already know what the characters will be, and my husband and I are working on the art behind these characters.
  • An easy vernacular for readers, which is especially helpful since my target audience are high school sophomores.
  • A blend of cartoon and realist styles as needed. I can stylized a map to a certain degree before it starts to distract from the content.

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