Biographical Information

There have been many instances in my life in which I have been asked to pro­vide bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion and many occa­sions where my life has been the theme for my writing.

Right on this web­site you may learn many facts about my life by look­ing at my Cur­ricu­lum Vitae and by read­ing the “Note from the Author” in the pages of each of my books as well as by lis­ten­ing to the inter­view from Col­orín Col­orado and read­ing other writ­ten inter­views posted here.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion on my life and work you may want to read the books and texts listed below or watch the DVDs listed. Some of them can be found at least par­tially in You Tube.

I have also added at the end of this doc­u­ment a few brief texts that I have writ­ten about myself at dif­fer­ent times to answer spe­cific requests.

Pub­li­ca­tions in English

Alma Flor Ada and You, vol­ume I and vol­ume II.
Series The Author and You. Libraries Unlim­ited.
In these two books I tell “the sto­ries behind the sto­ries” of my books. I share how each was con­ceived and how it came to be, as well as what it has meant in my life. I also expand on some aspects of my child­hood and youth that have informed my writing.

Arti­cles about Alma Flor Ada in Some­thing about the Author. Gale Pub­lish­ing.
I have been fea­tured in three dif­fer­ent vol­umes of Some­thing about the Author. These are very infor­ma­tive bio­graph­i­cal and crit­i­cal arti­cles about my life and work. Your school librar­ian or your pub­lic librar­ian should be able to secure these vol­umes for you.

Under the Royal Palms: A Cuban Child­hood [Pura Bel­pré Award 2000] Atheneum, Simon & Schus­ter
Where the Flame Trees Bloom. [Atheneum, Simon & Schus­ter]
These two books are mem­oirs of my child­hood and ado­les­cence where I also share much about my fam­ily and the envi­ron­ment I grew up with.

DVDs in English

An Author’s Jour­ney. Del Sol Pub­lish­ing
Meet­ing an Author. Del Sol Publishing

Pub­li­ca­tions in Spanish

Vivir en dos idiomas. Aguilar/SantillanaUSA
This mem­oir is the most com­plete descrip­tion of my life avail­able. Recently pub­lished it con­tains not only my expe­ri­ences but the feel­ings that accom­pa­nied those expe­ri­ences and the reflec­tions they have motivated.

Bajo las pal­mas reales. Alfaguara/SantillanaUSA
Allá donde flo­re­cen los fram­boy­anes. Alfaguara /SantillanaUSA
These two books are mem­oirs of my child­hood and ado­les­cence where I also share much about my fam­ily and the envi­ron­ment I grew up with.

Bar­riletes. Laredo Pub­lish­ing.
Bar­quitos de papel. Laredo Pub­lish­ing.
Días de circo. Laredo Pub­lish­ing.
Pin pin sarabín. Laredo Pub­lish­ing.
Pre­gones. Laredo Pub­lish­ing.
Each one of these books presents a child­hood expe­ri­ence not to be found elsewhere.

DVDs in Spanish

Escri­bi­endo desde el corazón. Del Sol Publishing

MISCELLANEOUS TEXTS ABOUT MY LIFE


CALIFORNIA READERS AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. What did you most like to do when you were a child?
    As a child I loved to read, to spend time in nature, both among the trees and in the ocean, to swim and to explore.
  2. What books influ­enced you most when you were grow­ing up?
    So many… I read all the books, not only the best well-known, of Louise May Alcott and of Johanna Spyri. Louise May Alcott’s books made me think of feel­ings and per­sonal inter­ac­tion, those of J. Spyri of the won­ders of the world of nature around me, as well as love among peo­ple. Jules Verne invited me to imag­ine the unimag­in­able. Emilio Sal­gari invited me to think of brave adven­tures, while Charles Dick­ens made me see, even more clearly, the poverty, the great dif­fer­ences, and the injus­tices that existed in my country.

    I was par­tic­u­larly moved by Edmundo D’Amicis book, Corazón. El diario de un niño [Heart: A Boy’s Diary] which included some very poignant sto­ries and reflec­tions on every day life in Italy, by the books of two Argen­tin­ian writ­ers Con­stan­cio C. Vigil and Ger­mán Berdiales. I loved the poetry of José Martí, the sto­ries and essays in the won­der­ful La Edad de Oro. Besides books I was greatly influ­enced by my grandmother’s sto­ries: folk­tales, leg­ends from the Greek tra­di­tion and fac­tual sto­ries about the Cuban strug­gle to gain its inde­pen­dence from Spain.

  3. What was your first job when you grad­u­ated from col­lege?
    I was already a teacher before fin­ish­ing my doc­toral stud­ies. And I am proud to have been an edu­ca­tor ever since!
  4. When and where was your first book pub­lished?
    My first books were pub­lished in Lima, Peru, before I fin­ished my grad­u­ate stud­ies. They were text books with the lessons that I had cre­ated for my High School students.
  5. What are the top­ics are some of your books?
    I write books in many gen­res, and I really like them all. It depends on the moment.

    Some of my books are books of poetry. In Span­ish I love to play with the lan­guage, its sounds and its mul­ti­ple mean­ings. Many of my pic­ture books in Span­ish are writ­ten using rhyme.

    In my pic­ture books there are fre­quently many ani­mals, prob­a­bly because I grew up in a farm and loved the nature that sur­rounded me.

    The top­ics that keep reap­pear­ing, whether the char­ac­ters be ani­mals, peo­ple, or even geo­met­ric shapes are the joy of fam­ily, the sur­prises of dis­cov­er­ing friend­ship among those who appar­ently are dif­fer­ent from us [The Mala­chite Palace, Friend Frog, Friends] our capac­ity to change our envi­ron­ment and thus our life for the bet­ter [Jordi’s Star] and the power in not-giving up [The Lizard and the Sun, The Kite].

    My respect for farm-workers led me to write Gath­er­ing the Sun.

  6. Do you focus on fic­tion or non­fic­tion? Which do you pre­fer? Do you find one eas­ier than the other?I write both fic­tion and non-fiction, as well as poetry and plays. The desire that all chil­dren learn more about the rich­ness of the Latino cul­ture, in order that they can appre­ci­ate it more, has led me to write many non-fiction books, usu­ally in col­lab­o­ra­tion with F. Isabel Campoy.I enjoy all forms of writ­ing, but I prob­a­bly have more fun writ­ing fiction.
  7. Where do you get your ideas?
    Ideas are all around us. I can get inspired for a story by see­ing some­thing, or by hear­ing some words… but at the end it always seems that the sto­ries reflect some­thing that is deep in me.
  8. What gave you the idea for Extra! Extra! News from Hid­den For­est?I enjoyed very much see­ing how much chil­dren liked my books Dear Peter Rab­bit, Yours Truly, Goldilocks and With Love Lit­tle Red Hen, and I liked to see that teach­ers were using them to show their stu­dents how to write let­ters in a fun way.The great illus­tra­tions that Leslie Tryon has made for these books made the Hid­den For­est world come alive… and that led me to believe those who lived in Hid­den For­est needed a newspaper.

    Then I remem­bered how impor­tant news­pa­pers had been in my life… and the book was born.

  9. Have any of your books earned spe­cial recog­ni­tion?
    Yes. I have been very for­tu­nate that many of my books have received awards. While a more com­plete list can be found in my web­site, these are some exam­ples:The Gold Coin won the Christo­pher Award Medal; The Lizard and the Sun received the gold medal from Par­ent­ing Mag­a­zines; Gath­er­ing the Sun won the Once Upon a World Award; Half-chicken/Mediopollito was given an Aesop Acco­lade from the Amer­i­can Folk­lore Asso­ci­a­tion; Tales Our Abueli­tas Told received The Junior Library Guild Medal; Dear Peter Rab­bit is a Parent’s Honor book. And Under the Royal Palms won the very pres­ti­gious Pura Bel­pré Award from the Amer­i­can Library Association.

    Many of my books have received recog­ni­tion by hav­ing been included in many lists of rec­om­mended books and in mul­ti­ple anthologies.

  10. How did your life change when you had chil­dren?
    Not only my life, but myself changed com­pletely when I became a mother. Life was not any more about me, but first and fore­most about my chil­dren. I became more cau­tious, because I wanted to make sure noth­ing hap­pened to me, so I could be there for them. I worked much harder, because I wanted to make sure they would not lack any­thing. And they became a con­stant pres­ence in my mind and heart. And yes, it made it a lot eas­ier to write, because they have inspired many of my sto­ries and added so much to my life that I have both greater inter­est in writ­ing and their help and support.
  11. Have any of your fic­tion sto­ries been about real peo­ple or events?
    I love to explain that I am Field Mouse in my story Friend Frog.
  12. Is there any­thing about your­self that you’d like to share–hobbies, where you were born, spe­cial tal­ents other than writing/illustrating?
    Recently I have had two books pub­lished, Alma Flor Ada and You, vol­umes I and II [Libraries Unlim­ited] where I have shared every­thing you can pos­si­bly want to know about my life as an author of children’s literature.

ALMA FLOR ADA
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL REFLECTIONS
TO SHARE WITH STUDENTS

I was born in Cam­agüey, Cuba, in an old house in the out­skirts of town which the remote neigh­bors believed was haunted. The house had been the home of the patri­ots in the strug­gle to win Cuba’s inde­pen­dence from Spain. It held mem­o­ries of peo­ple who had lived in it for over a cen­tury. Some of those had been the plan­ta­tion own­ers, some shame­fully had been held as enslaved workers.

Every evening my grand­mother and I sat on the porch to wait for the sun­set. As we watched the bats come out from their den in the ceil­ing, and fly into the dark­en­ing sky, I lis­tened to her sto­ries of the strug­gle for free­dom, equal­ity and jus­tice that had been car­ried on by peo­ple who lived in that same house, who per­haps had con­spired on that same porch.

Her abil­ity to tell sto­ries made his­tory alive to me and planted the seed that chil­dren can lis­ten to very impor­tant top­ics if they are pre­sented as a good story.

She was not the only sto­ry­teller in my fam­ily. I was blessed by being sur­rounded by them. Every­one in my fam­ily loved a well told story and was good at telling them. Some were excep­tion­ally good.

My uncle Tony loved to tell fam­ily sto­ries. He made them very vividly by mak­ing him­self be a part of the action… even if the story had hap­pened before he became a part of the fam­ily by mar­ry­ing my Aunt Lolita, or even before he was born. And it didn’t mat­ter if any­one tried to make the record straight. He was so con­vinc­ing in the telling that he actu­ally con­vinced him­self that he’d been there each time!

My father, instead, cre­ated for me each night a new chap­ter of an unend­ing story of the life of human beings in this planet. He was not con­cerned with the his­tory of kings and con­querors or well-known fig­ures, but rather on how the com­mon peo­ple had, a step at a time, cre­ated civ­i­liza­tions as we now know them.

This com­bi­na­tion of real­ity and fan­tasy delighted me. The fact that he cre­ated these sto­ries just for me was an extra­or­di­nary gift which formed a most pow­er­ful bond between us.

I was a rather quiet and obser­vant child. The world around me was fas­ci­nat­ing. I was lucky to be allowed long hours by myself in nature. I could watch a bird, a flower or a leave for the longest time and always mar­vel at its beauty. I lived next to a river and that in itself was a source of con­stant won­ders: leap­ing frogs, funny tad­poles, skit­tish tur­tles that would jump in the water and dis­ap­pear at the slight­est noise, drag­on­flies and egrets… they have all found a way into my books because they are all so alive in my memory.

And then, there was a town full of peo­ple. Mak­ing sense of who they really were, what they thought and desired, what they believed on and how they lived, was a foun­tain of rev­e­la­tions. Every pos­si­ble char­ac­ter, every pos­si­ble atti­tude seemed to exist around me, if I just lis­tened and reflected enough.

Books were won­der­ful com­pan­ions and I found myself many times mar­veling at find­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties between the peo­ple around me and the char­ac­ters in books. I never believed I would be a writer–although as a teenager I thought I would be a journalist—and became a teacher instead. But my love for words and books made it inevitable that I would become an author. And what a joy it is!

Fuentes que han influ­ido en mi pensamiento

Primero que nada quiero aclarar que me siento muy agrade­cida a todos los pen­sadores y edu­cadores de los que he apren­dido. Algunos me pro­por­cionaron nuevas ideas, otros me ayu­daron a con­sol­i­dar o a mati­zar las mías, muchos me han dado apoyo y han reforzado mis propias intuiciones.

Es bas­tante difí­cil deter­mi­nar exac­ta­mente de dónde viene todo lo que a lo largo de una vida uno ha ido decantado. Pero trataré de aclararlo lo mejor posible.

Con­sidero que dis­tin­tos aspec­tos de mi pen­samiento coin­ci­den con los de otros autores, que quizá hayan escrito mas exten­sa­mente sobre ello, pero nece­sari­a­mente no derivo de ellos. Es lógico que todos los que hemos estu­di­ado y apren­dido de Pablo Freire teng­amos seme­jan­zas de pensamiento.

Algunos de los autores con los que siento gran afinidad son los siguientes:

  • En temas de bil­ingüismo:
    Tove Skutnabb Kan­gas, Jim Cum­mins y Ste­pehn Krashen
  • En temas de mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ismo coin­cido con:
    Sonia Nieto y Luis Moll
  • En edu­cación anti-racista aprendí mucho de
    Ricki Sherover Mar­cuse, de mi propia alumna Jacque­line Reza y más que de
    nadie de mi propia hija, Rosalma Zubizarreta
  • En la impor­tan­cia de la estética y del arte en la edu­cación coin­cido con Max­ine Greene.
  • Sobre la impor­tan­cia de que los alum­nos escriban:
    Cuando empecé a enseñar en el Perú, leí a Celes­tine Freinet (el gran edu­cador francés) y me impre­sionó mucho su idea de que cada salón de clases debe ser una edi­to­r­ial que publique los escritos de sus alum­nos. En esa época leí tam­bién a un escritor, no sé si argentino, chileno u uruguayo, que pub­li­caba sus libros como el Mae­stro Romualdo, pub­li­caba los escritos de sus alum­nos de una escuelita rural. Todo esto apoyó mi propia intu­ición de lo impor­tante que es que los alum­nos escriban y que lo que escriban se publique de algún modo.

Pero esen­cial­mente soy una mujer his­panoamer­i­cana y las más impor­tantes fuentes de mi pen­samiento hay que bus­car­las en esa realidad.

Agradezco esta opor­tu­nidad de recono­cer a mis grandes mae­stros, la lista resulta bas­tante sor­pren­dente y la expli­caré brevemente.

  1. mi abuela, Dolores Sal­vador Mén­dez y mi abuelo Medardo
    Lafuente Rubio
  2. mi padre, Modesto Ada Rey,
  3. José Martí
  4. el filó­sofo peru­ano Augusto Salazar Bondy
  5. el filól­ogo argentino Raimundo Lida
  6. el edu­cador brasileño, Paulo Freire
  7. mi hija, Rosalma Zubizarreta
  8. mi madre, Alma Lafuente Sal­vador, y sus her­manas Vir­ginia y
    Mireya
  9. Tam­bién han sido muy impor­tantes en mi visión de la edu­cación mi maes­tra de sexto grado, Rosa María Peyrellade
  10. y la maes­tra de cuarto grado de mi hijo Miguel Zubizarreta, Miss Ivonne Larin (en Vetal School Detroit)
  11. Para el estim­u­la­rme a seguir una car­rera uni­ver­si­taria con gran rigor la 12. Dra. Elena Catena de Vin­dell, de la Uni­ver­si­dad Com­plutense en Madrid
  12. Y para la creación escrita, una edi­tora extra­or­di­naria: Ber­nice Randall

Vengo de una familia de educadores.

En la ded­i­ca­to­ria de A Mag­i­cal Encounter cito a estos pre­de­ce­sores famil­iares que me dejaron como heren­cia genética y como heren­cia en la tradi­ción famil­iar el amor a la enseñaza.

  1. Mis bis­abue­los, Vir­ginia Rubio Sierra y Lorenzo Lafuente Garoña tenían un cole­gio en Madrid, España.
  2. Mis abue­los, Medardo Lafuente Rubio y Dolores Sal­vador Mén­dez fueron grandes edu­cadores.
    Sobre ellos puede leerse en:

    • La maes­tra” viñeta en Allá donde flo­re­cen los framboyanes
    • El pról­ogo a Mi cada vez más querida mía, libro que he pub­li­cado reco­giendo las car­tas de Medardo Lafuente a Dolores Salvador
    • El libro Recuer­dos de Mireya Lafuente Sal­vador donde hay varias viñe­tas ded­i­cadas a sus padres.
  3. Mi padre fue un hom­bre extra­or­di­nario. Siento no haber escrito todavía sobre él, aunque lo estoy haciendo en las Memo­rias de vida que estoy escri­bi­endo ahora.
  4. José Martí informa todo mi pen­samiento. Aprendí a cono­cerlo de boca de mi abuela. Mem­o­ricé de pequeña sus Ver­sos sen­cil­los. Me con­moví leyendo Ismaelillo y La Edad de Oro. Y he seguido estu­diando su pen­samiento y apren­di­endo de él siem­pre. Creo que sus Car­tas a María Man­tilla con­tienen la mas her­mosa visión de lo que es educar.Como autora de libros infan­tiles Martí es mi mod­elo más impor­tante. Su respeto al niño es pro­fundo y autén­tico. Y creó para ellos todo un nuevo estilo de decir, con el comienza la buena lit­er­atura infan­til en His­panoamérica y defin­i­ti­va­mente debe­mos con­sid­er­arlo el primer autor Latino de lit­er­atura infantil.
  5. el filó­sofo peru­ano Augusto Salazar BondyDe él aprendí sobre la dom­i­nación, la opre­sión y sus con­se­cuen­cias sobre indi­vid­uos y sociedad, aun antes de haber leído a Freire.Me ayudó con mi tesis doc­toral, cuando creí no poder con­tin­uarla y me rela­cionó por primera vez con un edi­tor y, gra­cias a su recomen­dación, publiqué mis primeros libros de texto.
  6. el filól­ogo argentino Raimundo Lida. Estudié con él, cur­sos de post-grado en Har­vard. Y tuvo la gen­erosi­dad de con­tin­uar tra­ba­jando con­migo para con­ver­tir la tesis con la cual había obtenido el doc­tor­ado en el Perú, en mi primer libro de crítica lit­er­aria. De él aprendí rigor, a tamizar las afir­ma­ciones, a bus­car la posi­bil­i­dad de nuevas inter­preta­ciones y a dar peso y valor a cada palabra.Y su pro­funda sabiduría e incom­pa­ra­ble sen­si­bil­i­dad incre­men­taron mi capaci­dad de dis­fru­tar de la poesía a nive­les que no hubiera imaginado
  7. el edu­cador brasileño, Paulo Freire ha tenido pro­funda influ­en­cia en mí, porque encar­n­aba su pro­pio pen­samiento con total aut­en­ti­ci­dad, como he querido hac­erlo yo siempre
  8. mi hija, Rosalma Zubizarreta aunque ella posi­ble­mente protes­taría con­tra esta afir­ma­ción lo cierto es que ha sido para mí una gran maes­tra a lo largo de la vida. Tiene una pro­funda capaci­dad reflex­iva y a ello le une el valor de vivir sus con­vic­ciones, inclu­sive en aque­l­las situa­ciones donde no es f’acil. Gra­cias a su apre­cio por todo ser viviente, y el nivel de com­pren­sión y com­pasión que siente y expresa hacia todos los seres humanos, y a su clara per­cep­ción de los errores tan preva­lentes en todas las sociedades, que son etnocén­tri­cas y opre­si­vas en esen­cia, me ha enseñado y me enseña constantemente.
  9. mi madre, Alma Lafuente Sal­vador, y sus her­manas Vir­ginia y Mireya
    fueron grandes maes­tras, que enseñaron con idealismo,entusiasmo, creatividad
  10. Tam­bién han sido muy impor­tantes en mi visión de la edu­cación mi maes­tra de sexto grado, Rosa María Peyrel­lade, que no vac­iló en salirse del pro­grama para ayu­darme (tenía grandes prob­le­mas con la ortografía, por una forma de dislexia) y para estim­u­lar mi creatividad
  11. y la maes­tra de cuarto grado de mi hijo Miguel Zubizarreta, Miss Ivonne Larin (en Vetal School Detroit)
    Su influ­en­cia y mi deuda hacia ella están clara­mente descritas en la sec­ción “The 1,000 book class­room” en el libro A Mag­i­cal Encounter.
  12. Por el estim­u­la­rme a seguir una car­rera uni­ver­si­taria con gran rigor la 12. Dra. Elena Catena de Vin­dell, de la Uni­ver­si­dad Com­plutense en Madrid. En un momento en que estaba sola y sin mucha guía o direc­ción en Madrid, ella vio en mí la poten­cia para seguir un doc­tor­ado y me estim­uló a hac­erlo con gran car­iño y gen­erosi­dad, cosa nada fre­cuente en aquel momento de parte de un pro­fe­sor español hacia un alumno hispanoamericano.
  13. Y para la creación escrita, tengo una enorme deuda de grat­i­tud a una edi­tora extra­or­di­naria: Ber­nice Randall