Today we are pleased to welcome Isabel Mesa and Mariana Ruiz to introduce the children and young people’s book scene in Bolivia...
It is a sad fact that we have yet to see a Bolivia’s book for younger readers translated into English; however, over the last five years there’s been new momentum around Bolivian authors.
Back in the 1970s, theater and poetry were dominant in Bolivian literature. In the 80s, change began with the focal point of Bolivian children’s literature moving from the Andean region to more central regions. Alongside this physical movement, literary content also began to evolve, and storytelling became more of a focal point. However, these stories remained introspective, focusing on the world within Bolivia’s national borders.
In the late 1990s, however, this too began to change as authors wrote more and more novels. Since then, the novel has become the dominant literary form for children and young people with a focus in the 21st century on urban settings, fantasy and humor.
In 2006, the Bolivian Academy of Children’s and Youth Literature (ABLIJ) was established. This is an autonomous non-profit institution that researches children’s and youth literature with an emphasis on Bolivian creators, recording and disseminating the results. One of the main ways we share this information is through our website where we have listings in Spanish for over 800 works, 100 registered authors and 50 illustrators. If you are looking to explore and discover Bolivian writing for young people, this is the perfect place to start! We produce a monthly newsletter (subscribe here) and once a year we hold an International Seminar. This year the seminar was delivered online by Ana Garralón focusing on Non Fiction.
We also have a physical library collection called “Vuelan Vuelan”. The collection is currently housed within the Education Action Centre (CAP) at the Espacio Simón I. Patiño in La Paz which engages with a wide cross-section of Bolivian society.
It is great to see that our work appears to be paying off. New titles from Bolivia are being considered as part of the Miami-based Fundación Cuatrogatos organization which promotes children’s literature from across the Spanish-speaking Americas. In the summer, it was also announced in The Bookseller that YA author Giovanna Rivero’s adult short story Fresh from the Dirt will be published as part of an anthology by Charco Press in 2023, the first English translation of any of her work. Her YA title 98 segundos sin sombra was also reviewed in the prestigious literary journal Latin American Literature Today, so we are hopeful that the spotlight shining on Bolivian literature will continue to grow brighter.
Five more Bolivian writers to look out for
Carolina has worked in book publishing for many years, mainly focusing for school texts for primary and secondary students. In 2017, she published the poetry anthology La sonrisa del Pepino (Loqueleo, 2017) and this was followed in 2018 by prose novel El árbol de Anselmo (Loqueleo). This book was included on the ABLIJ recommended titles list 2017-2018 and in 2019, it was selected as part of the 100 recommended books from the Fundación Cuatrogatos.
Isabel’s works have received numerous national and international awards and accolades including inclusions in the IBBY Latin American and Caribbean recommendations, the top 300 Iberoamerican books recommended by the Argentine Ministry for Education. Her work is included in the collection 25 autores iberoamericanos de narrativa para jóvenes (25 Ibero-American writers for children) published in collaboration with Spanish organisation CEPLI and the Fundación Cuatrogatos. Her latest book was released in 2021: La elegida: una aventura en la selva amazónica (Editorial Gisbert)
Lilliana’s writing has received recognition across the Spanish-Speaking Americas, with accolades in Bolivia, Cuba, Peru, and Guatemala. She has been invited to participate as a jury member for national and international children’s book prizes in Bolivia and Cuba. As well as writing for children, she is a specialist in children’s rights and the rights of indigenous people. She was a consultant on the creation of two books on the theme of rights of indigenous children in collaboration with UNICEF and Reforma Educativa. El color de la saya was published in 2018. You can watch Lilliana read her story (in Spanish) on YouTube.
Verónica is co-founder of the Academia Boliviana de la Literatura Infantil y Juvenil. A teacher of young children, she is also a researcher in the field of children’s literature. Her writing has received recognition in Argentina and Venzuela as well as her home country of Bolivia. Verónica’s latest book Anfibius Lunaticus was selected for inclusion in the 2020 catalogue produced by IBBY in collaboration with the CERLALC organisation entitled Leer, Imagine, Actuar (Read, Imagine, Act). It was also reviewed in Linternas y Bosques, a Spanish language journal for children’s and young adult books, as part of their focus on books dealing with migration, before, during and after.
César has twice won the National Prize for Youth Literature, in 2013 with his novel El día más triste de la soberana más bella and again in 2018 with his book La cruz de Jaén. His latest book La cueva de los animales invisibles, won the Santanilla National Prize for children’s books and was chosen as one of the 100 recommended books by the Fundación Cuatrogatos in 2020.
The Saddest Day of the Most Beautiful Sovereign (César Herrera, 2013). Masterfully written in the second person, with beautiful poetic language, this novel presents a woman who does not recognize where she is. She finds herself in a place where dreams surround her and do not leave her alone, a space in which her head confuses things, intertwining dreams and memories that, sometimes fit together and other times don’t. As she scrutinizes these dreams, as if inside a Chinese box, a second story arises, set in Samaipata, the author’s hometown.
Isabel Mesa, born in 1960, is a Bolivian children’s author with more than 15 novels under her belt. Founder member of the Bolivian Academy of Children and Youth Literature, in 2019 she wrote the “History of Children and Youth Literature of Bolivia”.
Mariana Ruiz, born in 1982, is a Bolivian children’s author with 14 books in the genre, from short novels to stories. She is a member of the Bolivian Academy of Children and Youth Literature. Her short story collection “Marmalade Days” won The Short Story National Prize Abrapalabra in 2018.