May 10, 2005 > Roots, Latin style
Roots, Latin style
Cinco de Mayo celebrations commemorate a triumph over overwhelming odds. Mexico's history highlights their victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. At Community Day School in Newark, students wrestling with life's challenges spent Cinco de Mayo with author Arturo "Art" Rodriquez. Principal Carolyn Scott felt his appearance was especially appropriate since Rodriquez overcame a troubled youth in San Jose, dominated by gang violence, dyslexia and an incomplete education to become a successful businessman and author.
As an adult, everyone enjoyed listening to him relate short stories about his life and heritage. His wife, Flora, encouraged him to write them down. Even though he had accomplished much in his life, as his wife reviewed 30 pages of his first manuscript, her response became singularly momentous.
The ensuing silence, after reading only the first page, spelled doom. When pressed for an answer she told her husband that his grammar was poor and the whole page was a "run-on" sentence. He was not familiar with the term, but knew it was not a compliment. "My computer took pity on me and lost my work," Rodriquez said. Not one to quit, he studied grammar and writing and tried again - this time with 50 pages - and was met with some of the same problems including a computer that flashed "corrupted" when he tried to retrieve a copy.
A third iteration was the charm and since that time, stories have poured forth, published as a series of books beginning with "Eastside Dreams," honored as one of the 200 Best Teenage Books in the U.S. of the New York Public Library System and a first place award at the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. This initial success was followed by a series of titles for all ages and ethnicities including, "The Monkey Box," "Forgotten Dreams" and finally, "Those Oldies But Goodies."
Rodriguez left students with the message that it is never too late to turn things around - "If I can do it, so can you."
To contact Rodriguez, purchase his books, or read excerpts of his writings, visit www.eastsidedreams.com.