In the Hispanic Star series of biographies for young readers, author, activist, and Mexican-Swiss diplomat Claudia Romo Edelman shines a light on the lives of Hispanic and Latinx individuals of yesterday and today. Edelman is the founder of the We Are All Human Foundation, a New York–based nonprofit organization devoted to uplifting communities, promoting diversity, and advancing equity. She previously published two volumes of Hispanic Stars Rising: The New Face of Power, titles for adult readers that celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Americans. Edelman saw an opportunity to reach young readers with these inspiring stories—and a partnership with Macmillan was born. The middle grade series launches in September with the first two titles, Hispanic Star: Celia Cruz, coauthored with William Alexander and illustrated by Alexandra Beguez, and Hispanic Star: Roberto Clemente, coauthored with Sara Echenique, illustrated by Manuel Gutierrez.
Tell me about the We Are All Human Foundation and Hispanic Star?
When I started working for UNICEF in 2014 and moved to New York, I saw that divisive language was getting too much traction—the 2016 elections, Brexit, the narrative of otherness growing—it became the one thing that could derail the progress we've seen. We Are All Human was born in this very important moment; I wanted to remind everyone we belong to the same human family. Being the optimist that I am, I know change is possible because I’ve seen it happen. Six years ago, I moved to America. I’m Mexican and I was in Europe for 25 years. When I arrived here, I was happy to finally be part of a majority. Then I started living here and for the first time in my life, I realized that I was Hispanic and that our community suffers from what I call a "reverse marketing" problem. Hispanics are powerful but are portrayed as weak; we are huge, but our mentality is small. Let us get on the same page. We’re one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country.
We created Hispanic Star to showcase the incredible contributions Hispanic people have made to this country, and to become a symbol of Hispanic and Latino pride and unity. At We Are All Human, we realized we could use our power to convene people and to improve the perception of the Hispanic community. We stand for inclusion and diversity, and we want every Hispanic to feel like the star they are.
What are your goals for the series going forward?
We want to see the Hispanic Star series in every Hispanic household and beyond. We want to reach beyond our own community and have children from any background learn about Hispanic Stars and the role we have played in the country’s history and culture. I want the Hispanic Star series to become a source of inspiration and pride for the next generation and one of the cornerstones of the changes to come: for Hispanics to be recognized for their incredible contributions to this country.
Have you learned a lot about the individuals you've researched for the series so far?
Absolutely! There have been so many facts and stories I wasn’t aware of. Researching every book has given me even more insight and admiration for our heroes. It has also doubled my motivation to keep working for our community. We need to bring these stories to light, for the younger generations and even for our own! If I keep learning, everyone can; we can all become inspired and unified to make these stories known.
How have you chosen the Hispanic and Latinx individuals featured in the books?
We have a list of incredible Hispanic and Latino leaders that have made a difference in their own sectors: sports, science, art, culture, and academics. We started choosing according to the historical moments, for example, the 50th anniversary of Roberto Clemente’s death, but we also have upcoming stories on heroes who have yet to achieve widespread recognition, like Sylvia Rivera, an iconic transgender activist. I’m really looking forward to seeing these stories brought to life and for young people everywhere to read them.
How did the publishing program for the Hispanic Star series come about?
I kept seeing these incredible series coming out about heroes and their stories, their biographies, but I soon realized very few of them were highlighting Hispanic and Latino heroes. I started thinking, why not? We’re such an integral part of American history and life our history is American history. As part of the Hispanic Star platform, we have the chance to connect with leaders from all walks of life, and they each have their own heroes they look up to. Why not showcase them and bring them to the next generation? This series can become that inspiration for our youth: change is possible and you can lead the way!
What inspired you to create a biography series specifically for young readers?
When I first came to the U.S. six years ago, I was so excited to join the thriving Hispanic community. I was thrilled for my children to learn more about their heritage and the strength of their community. Instead, I soon began worrying about the challenges they would face because of my decision to marry an American and stay in the U.S. And I knew I was not the only parent concerned about this issue. We all worry about the perception of our community and its impact on our children. At Hispanic Star, we have activations, content, and campaigns for changing the perception of Hispanics in the country. But this is the first of our efforts aimed at younger generations. We know kids' development and the role models they aspire to become are highly influenced by the books they read from an early age. We want young Hispanics and Latinos to grow up and read about the people that came before them, the challenges they faced, and the headway they made for themselves and for their community. I know this will be inspiring and support their journey to become the future leaders of this country.
What has surprised you the most about the experience of creating the Hispanic Star series?
It has been incredible to see the early response to these stories, even just the first two in the series. Seeing these books come to life has been a gratifying experience, but seeing the responses just from the Macmillan team working on this, the passion and motivation to make this series successful, and the response to the actual books has cemented our belief that this is a project that’s needed. There is no better time. We will be the last generation to be unseen, unheard, and undervalued. We’re ready to shine.