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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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Nation’s largest publisher of US Hispanic texts is UH-based


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The Arte Público Press staff, from left to right: Marina Tristán, Nellie Gonzalez, Nicolás Kanellos, Carolina Villaroel and Gabriela Ventura. | Courtesy of Arte Público

The publication of author Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” in 1984 made Arte Público Press known worldwide. Today, it is the largest publisher of Hispanic literature in the U.S.

Helping to increase Arte Público Press’ exposure was an editorial from the Wall Street Journal, titled “The Great Books Replaced by the Not So Great,” that criticized Cisneros’ novel.

“After reading that article, people became interested in our books and came to bookstores trying to get ahold of them,” said Nicolás Kanellos, founder and director of Arte Público.

Kanellos opened his business in 1979 to provide books for Latino studies courses in universities. When schools like Stanford and Yale started adopting works done by minority and women authors in the mid-80s, Arte Público Press discovered its niche.

Arte Público Press now publishes anywhere from 25 to 30 books a year, but receives around 2,000 manuscript submissions through their website.

“We work with agents and our committee goes through all of the manuscripts, even unsolicited manuscripts,” Kanellos said.

After the manuscripts have been selected, Gabriela Ventura, the executive editor, transforms them into books.

“I work with the writer, copy editors and proofreaders to catch any mistakes,” Ventura said. “Then I work with the production manager to come up with concepts for the covers and ensure that all of the information on the covers is correct. This process takes one year for our regular trade paperbacks and two years for our picture books.”

Ventura also works with the acquisition of manuscripts, a project that Kanellos is hoping to expand in the future.

“We have a big research program aimed at preserving all written culture by Latinos in the U.S. from the 16th century to now and making it accessible online,” Kanellos said.  “We want to be an online source for all kinds of information about Latinos in the U.S. through not only literature, but history, music, art, etc.”

Arte Público Press is also aiming to expand its children’s literature company, Piñata Books, in the future.

“Right now, we are publishing four books a year. We would like to double that number within the next two years,” Kanellos said. “We want children to read our books in school, especially in cities with a high Latin American population.”

In an effort to increase children’s interest in literature, especially Hispanic, renowned children’s writer and Arte Público Press collaborator, Pat Mora, created an annual event called Children’s Day/Book Day that takes place on or near April 30.

With the projected increase in the U.S. Hispanic population in the future, author and illustrator Laura Lacámara deems it’s crucial to have more children-oriented bilingual/Hispanic literature.

“According to U.S Census data, one in four children in the U.S in 2015 was Hispanic,” Lacámara said, who in May 2012 was Arte Público Press’ “Author of the Month.” “Yet, according to the University of Wisconsin, out of 3,400 children’s books published that year, only 82 were about Latinos.”

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