UTSA professor receives city-wide recognition


“The decision to be an author and writer was not a career choice; like the path of any artist of substance, it is a response to a calling,” Dr. Carmen Tafolla said.

“It is that path we are called to, that dream born inside us.  It’s not an intellectual decision, but the flowing of a spiritual urge to create, to tell the story, to document that human experience around us.  I would not be my real self if I did not write.  I write because I have to. I am published because of the match between our society’s needs and my concientizacion to create,” Dr. Carmen Tafolla, an internationally acclaimed writer, and senior lecturer for bicultural and bilingual studies within the college of education and human development at UTSA.

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, the San Antonio Public Library is hosting “The Art of Cultura y Herencia: Artwork and Illustrations in the Books of Carmen Taffola.” Located at the Memorial branch of the library, the display is honoring the work of Taffola by featuring illustrations from many of her children’s books. Her works, such as “What Can You Do with a Paleta?,” often celebrate culture and personal empowerment. “What Can You Do With a Paleta?” was awarded the 2010 Charlotte Zolotow Award for best children’s picture book writing, two International Latino Book Awards, the Tomas Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, and the 2010 Americas Award (presented jointly to Tafolla and to Julia Alvarez) at the Library of Congress. Significantly, Tafolla is the first Latina author to be given the Charlotte Zolotow Award for Best Children’s Picture Book Writing.

 As a result of her success,  Tafolla is one of the most highly anthologized Latina writers. Her work has appeared in more than 200 anthologies, magazines, journals, readers, High School American Literature textbooks, kindergarten Big Books and posters.

Tafolla has a special affection for San Antonio. “My roots in San Antonio go so far back I can hear the trees talking to the river! I love the spirit of this place. I hear the centuries here. New Zealand was fresh and exciting, New Mexico ancient and enchanting, Mexico has a wealth of cultural spirit, Ireland sings when you stroll through it, but nowhere has the appeal for me that San Antonio does.  Like the ancient woman in my short story Inheritance, I feel I own it!”

Tafolla speaks passionately about Chicano lifestyle. “There’s a dynamic magic in the blending of cultures, the mestizaje, that holds two entire fields of heritage in its hands, and watches them chemically interact.  To me, the spirit of the bicultural, bilingual Chicano world is fresh and creative, newborn every day, with infinite possibilities for language play and artistic creation between two languages, two ways of thinking, and a third, our own, as double mestizos. San Antonio, for me, is the capital of that culture made of double mestizaje.

 “This nation is in the midst of an educational crisis, an epidemic of functional illiteracy, simultaneous with a traditional suppression of diversity and a new vacuum, a gap in storytelling between the generations.  Our children bear the brunt of that tragedy, especially children from underrepresented groups like Latinos and blacks.  Illiteracy closes doors for them, narrows options, decreases chances for survival,” said Tafolla

“I write for many ages, but of them all, children are the most important V.I.P’s in my audience. They are the ones who most desperately need to learn pride in their culture, their history and their own importance in this universe.  In my children’s books, I try to affirm the power of their own individuality, creativity and uniqueness, the value of their culture, the delicious adventure of discovering diversity, community, and collaboration.”