Two new publishers have sprung up looking to fulfill what they see as a growing demand for books by Latino authors that are more varied than those currently being published. Black Rose Writing, a San Antonio, Tex.–based publisher, recently announced the launch of its latest imprint, La Casita Grande, and Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein, two friends who couldn’t find books about Latinos or Latino culture for their children, are upping the output of their publishing company, Lil’ Libros.
La Casita Grande, headed by Black Rose Writing author Jonathan Marcantoni (Kings of 7th Avenue), promises a hands-on approach that Marcantoni developed during his time as editor-in-chief of Aignos Publishing, a bilingual publisher in Honolulu. Marcantoni says, “La Casita Grande is stepping in to fill the void in Latino literature for a house that is dedicated to experimental, innovative, genre-busting narratives in English and in Spanish, while providing international distribution.” Beginning this year, the imprint will publish four titles annually in a combination of Spanish, English, and bilingual formats.
Marcantoni stresses that he is looking for writers of Latin-American and Caribbean descent but is not interested in books about immigration or “identity literature,” areas he thinks are almost overrepresented. Marcantoni is most interested in such writers’ work in science fiction, crime, romance, horror, and experimental works.
La Casita Grande’s first book, Dysfunctional Males, is a collection of short stories written by Argentinean author Fernando Sdrigotti that will be released February 28. Its second title, Coffee/Black, No Sugar, is a bilingual poetry collection by the Puerto Rican writer A.B. Lugo.
Lil’ Libros, based in Los Angeles, began when Rodriguez could not find the kinds of bilingual books she wanted to read to her son. She wrote the bilingual manuscript for Counting with Frida/Contando con Frida, which combines number learning with an account of the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Unable to find an agent or publisher, Rodriquez enlisted Stein to start Lil’ Libros in 2014, and the two have steadily expanded the business.
Rodriquez acknowledges the two had a sometimes-rocky start. “Our first print run was printed in China and we had no idea what to expect,” she says. “We thought, we’ll go and pick the books up at the ship,” which arrived at the Port of Long Beach in California. “We went with my van to pick up six pallets. Needless to say, we were ill-equipped to take the books to a storage facility.”
Stein notes that with the help of family and friends, she and Rodriguez have gotten Lil’ Libros’ books stocked at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scholastic, Target, museums such as MOMA and the Mexican Fine Arts Museum of Chicago, and 100 independent stores, and they are being distributed by Baker & Taylor, Brodart, and Follett. Lil’ Libros has published eight books featuring Latino icons (Emiliano Zapata, Cuauhtemoc) and cultural touchstones (lucha libre, loteria), and it will publish another three titles in 2017.
Rodriguez and Stein both come from Mexican immigrant families who worked picking grapes and instilled a passion for books and Latino culture in their daughters. When asked what the goal of their company is, Rodriquez says: “We want to inspire our community to dream big. We need books that belong to us, in more ways than one. We also want to inspire parents, especially Latino parents, to read to their children at the youngest age.”