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Bertrand, Diane Gonzales 1956-

Bertrand, Diane Gonzales 1956-

Personal

Born March 12, 1956, in San Antonio, TX; married Nick C. Bertrand (a self-employed businessman); children: two. Ethnicity: "Latina." Education: University of Texas, San Antonio, B.A., 1979; Our Lady of the Lake University, M.A., 1992. Religion: Roman Catholic.

Addresses

Office—Department of English, St. Mary's University, One Camino Santa Maria, San Antonio, TX 78228.

Career

St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX, visiting lecturer in creative writing and English composition and faculty adviser for Pecan Grove Review (literary maga-

zine), became writer-in-residence. Presents workshops on creative writing for children, young adults, and adult audiences throughout Texas.

Member

National Council of Teachers of English, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Texas Council of Creative Writing Teachers, Austin Writers League, San Antonio Writers Guild.

Awards, Honors

Named National Hispanic Scholar, 1991; Book of the Year Award, ForeWord magazine, 1999, Teddy Award, Austin Writers League, 2000, Best Young-Adult Book (English) designation, National Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2000, and Lone Star Reading List citation, Texas Library Association, 2000-01, all for Trino's Choice; Best Bilingual Children's Book Award, National Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2000, for Family/Familia; Books for the Teen Age citation, New York Public Library, 2000, for Lessons of the Game; "Reading with Energy" Hispanic Children's Award, El Paso Energy Corporation, 2001, and Best Bilingual Children's Book Award, National Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2002, both for Uncle Chente's Picnic/El picnic de tio Chente; Best Young-Adult Book (English) designation, National Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2002, for Trino's Time; Best Bilingual Children's Book Award, National Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2003, for The Empanadas That Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela; Schneider Family Book Award, American Library Association, 2005, for My Pal, Victor/Mi amigo, Victor.

Writings

ADULT NOVELS

Touchdown for Love, Avalon Book (New York, NY), 1990.

Close to the Heart, Avalon Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Carousel of Dreams, Avalon Books (New York, NY), 1992.

FICTION; FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

Sweet Fifteen (novel), Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 1995.

Alicia's Treasure (novel), Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 1996.

Lessons of the Game (novel), Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 1998.

Trino's Choice (novel), Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 1999.

Trino's Time (novel), Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2001.

Upside down and Backwards/De cabeza y al revés (short stories), Spanish translation by Karina Hernéndez, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2004.

The Ruiz Street Kids/Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz (novel), Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2006.

PICTURE BOOKS

Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup/Caldo, caldo, caldo, illustrated by Alex De Lange, Arte Público Press (Houston, TX), 1997.

Family/Familia, illustrated by Pauline Rodriguez Howard, translated by Julia Mercedes Castilla, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 1999.

The Last Doll/La ultima muneca, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2000.

Uncle Chente's Picnic/El picnic de tio Chente, illustrations by Pauline Rodriguez Howard, Spanish translation by Julia Mercedes Castilla, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2001.

The Empanadas That Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía la abuela, illustrated by Alex Pardo DeLange, Spanish translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2003.

My Pal, Victor/Mi amigo, Victor, illustrated by Robert L. Sweetland, Spanish translation by Eida de la Vega, Raven Tree Press (Green Bay, WI), 2004.

We Are Cousins/Somos primos, illustrated by Christina Rodriguez, Piñata Books (Houston, TX), 2007.

Poetry has been published in Palo Alto Review, Concho River Review, English in Texas, and Chile Verde Review.

Sidelights

Diane Gonzales Bertrand is noted for writing wholesome stories featuring Mexican-American characters and celebrating family life. Her books for middle graders, such as the story collection Upside down and Backwards/De cabeza y al revés, introduce likeable Latino characters in humorous tales that feature storylines all children can relate to, while she addresses the concerns of teens in novels such as Sweet Fifteen and Trino's Time Her bilingual picture books include My Pal, Victor/Mi amigo, Victor, about two boys who see past one's disability to share a close friendship. Uncle Chente's Picnic/El picnic de tio Chente introduces the Cardenas family as members learn that their truck-driving uncle Chente will be in town to help celebrate the Fourth of July. "This quiet book shows a real delight in family," commented School Library Journal contributor Ann Welton in praise of Bertrand's story.

In the picture book Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup/Caldo, caldo, caldo, Bertrand tells the story of the delicious soup Mama cooks up with the help of the whole family, transforming a rainy Sunday into a celebration. Featuring a

bilingual text and the repeated refrain "caldo, caldo, caldo" ("hot, hot, hot!"), Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup relies on repetition to bring rhythm to the story of a warmhearted family ritual. Ann Welton, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, maintained that Bertrand's repetitive text is both "brisk" and "rhythmic." Cooking brings another Latino family together in The Empanadas That Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía abuela. Bertrand frames this tale as a "rhythmic cumulative rhyme," Welton noted in School Library Journal, the critic adding that, as in Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup, "the repetition in the text reinforces vocabulary and recognition skills."

Alicia's Treasure, Bertrand's middle-grade novel, introduces ten-year-old Alicia. The girl's dreams come true when she is allowed to accompany her older brother to the seashore during his weekend visit with his girlfriend and her family. At the beach, Alicia swims, surfs, picnics, squabbles with her brother, gets beach tar on her swimsuit, and generally has a great time. "Bertrand keeps the story moving as quickly as the weekend passes for Alicia," remarked Cheryl Cufari in a review of the novel for School Library Journal.

Other novels for young readers include the award-winning Trino's Choice and its sequel, Trino's Time. In Trino's Choice Bertrand introduces a seventh grader living in Texas who dislikes his family, including three young stepbrothers and an alcoholic uncle. Trino is also not very fond of school, although he is intrigued when some eighth-grade toughs invite him to join their criminal enterprises. "Overall, this is a dramatic and realistic contemporary novel … about a Latino boy struggling to grow into manhood," Annie Ayres concluded in Booklist. When readers rejoin Trino in Trino's Time he is attempting to deal with the aftermath of the botched robbery that led to the death of one of his friends. When his mother loses her job, Trino realizes that he needs to step up and take care of the family. Taking a part-time job at a grocery store, the teen also falls in with a better group of friends at school, and even finds inspiration in writing a report for history class. "The drama is seldom intense in the story," Roger Leslie wrote in Booklist, "but the emotions are sincere, and selfless Trino is an appealing protagonist." "Those readers who were frustrated with the open-ended conclusion of the earlier title will find satisfaction in this well-written sequel," concluded School Library Journal reviewer Diane P. Tuccillo.

Bertrand turns to older readers—particularly fans of romance—in books such as Lessons of the Game and Sweet Fifteen. In Lessons of the Game, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed "reminiscent of 1950s career-girl romances," overwhelmed student teacher Kaylene Morales struggles to reach her reluctant students while daydreaming about a romance with the school's football coach. A realist as well as a romantic, Kaylene tempers her infatuation with the handsome Alex Garrison by acknowledging her worries whether

she could tolerate sharing the man with his other love: football. "The Hispanic setting and characters help fill a void in YA romance," noted Booklist reviewer Anne O'Malley.

Sweet Fifteen depicts the modern version of the traditional Spanish coming-of-age ritual known as quinceañera. Bertrand's story centers on a seamstress who has been hired to make the dress for Stefanie Bonillo's birthday celebration. Stefanie has been resisting her family's efforts to get her to participate in this traditional celebration because she is still grieving over the recent death of her father. "Ethnic values are honestly portrayed in this sincere novel," noted Jana R. Fine in a review of Sweet Fifteen for School Library Journal. Chris Sherman, reviewing the story in Booklist, cited in particular Bertrand's focus on the evolving character of Rita, who finds love with Stefanie's uncle, friendship with Stefanie's mother, and a greater sense of her own identity through her involvement with the grieving family. "The story will engage readers … from its beginning to its satisfying end," Sherman concluded.

The quinceañera. tradition also figures in the plot of The Last Doll/La ultima muneca, a bilingual picture book about a doll named Sarita who fears being left behind as all of the dolls surrounding her in a toyshop are purchased. Finally Sarita is purchased by a man as a gift for his goddaughter, Teresa. As a quinceañera present, Sarita will be the last doll ever given to the now-grown-up girl. "This frothy confection will … make non-Latinas long for their own quinceañera coming-out parties," Annie Ayres predicted in Booklist.

"I call myself a Mexican-American writer," Bertrand told SATA. "For me, this is a tribute to the bicultural home my parents gave their seven Gonzales children. Even though my parents made the decision to make English the language of our home so that we could succeed in school, it doesn't mean the culture was put aside. The customs of birth party piñatas, cascarones at Easter, making caldo or empanadas during winter months, and meeting up with la familia every Sunday at Abuelita's house gave me a positive childhood that I continue to value as an adult and as a parent myself.

"I always loved to create imaginary playmates as a child," the writer once commented, "and eventually transferred that creativity to the written page. My first ‘novel’ was written into a spiral notebook when I was in fifth grade. I kept adding to the story for the next fifteen years until I had filled almost seventy notebooks with two main characters, a host of minor characters, and a variety of plots and subplots. When I reviewed those notebooks about ten years ago, I was surprised that I had such a sense of dramatic action. I knew how to write with one viewpoint character, and I instinctively knew how to create a multidimensional story that could sustain the length of a novel.

"I came from a family of seven children, and the least expensive form of entertainment for us was a weekly trip to the library. I have many memories of my mother or father loading us into the family station wagon and heading for a library. To this day, all seven of us still love to read novels in our spare time.

"At Ursuline Academy, my junior English teacher allowed her students to turn in any kind of writing for extra points. So I wrote poetry and paragraphs about my teen life—whatever I was feeling at the time—and she would read it and encourage me to keep writing, no matter what. Her strong push for writing beyond the academic essays allowed me to explore new topics and find more creative ways to express myself. The other teacher who inspired me to take risks with my writing was Dr. Ann Semel at St. Mary's University. She encouraged me to write for children and young adults, something I hadn't considered before I enrolled in her fiction writing class.

"I enrolled in graduate school with a desire to become a better writing teacher. I wanted to learn new theories or modern teaching methods so that when I went back to teaching I'd be able to help students more. On the first day of class, I was told, ‘A good writing teacher is a writer herself.’ That philosophy completely changed my life.

"I never thought about being a role model until I began to create strong Mexican-American characters for my novels. I wanted women like myself—clever, funny, and educated—and men like my father and brothers—charismatic, sensitive, and loving—to be the essence of the world I created in my fiction. Those first three novels broke new grounds in romantic fiction since my editor had never published books with Mexican-American lead characters.

"I am very proud of the fact that my books give readers a sense of pride in their own customs and simple traditions. When I work with students in their classrooms, I like to remind them that their lives are wonderful sources for writing. I have learned to pay attention to the people and places around me and to capture those experiences in my own words, sometimes using the Spanish language that is part of who I am too."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, June 1, 1995, Chris Sherman, review of Sweet Fifteen, p. 1750; May 1, 1996, Annie Ayres, review of Alicia's Treasure, p. 1505; January 1, 1999, Anne O'Malley, review of Lessons of the Game, p. 854; June 1, 1999, Annie Ayres, review of Trino's Choice, p. 1812; October 1, 2001, Annie Ayres, review of The Last Doll/La ultima muneca, p. 323; November 1, 2001, Roger Leslie, review of Trino's Time, p. 466; November 1, 2002, review of Trino's Time, p. 485.

Children's Books Review Service, spring, 1995, review of Sweet Fifteen, p. 140.

Hispanic, May, 2004, review of My Pal, Victor/Mi amigo, Victor, p. 70.

Horn Book, March-April, 2005, "Schneider Family Book Award," p. 236.

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, May, 1996, review of Sweet Fifteen, p. 693; October, 2002, Lori Atkins Goodson, review of Trino's Time, p. 180.

Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1998, review of Lesson of the Game, p. 68; June 18, 2001, review of Trino's Time, p. 83.

School Library Journal, September, 1995, Jana R. Fine, review of Sweet Fifteen, p. 218; July, 1996, Cheryl Cufari, review of Alicia's Treasure, p. 82; August, 1997, Ann Welton, review of Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup/Caldo, caldo, caldo, p. 128; April, 2001, Ann Welton, review of The Last Doll/La ultima muneca, p. 98; July, 2001, Diane P. Tuccillo, review of Trino's Time, p. 102; January, 2002, Ann Welton, review of Uncle Chente's Picnic/El picnic de tio Chente, p. 129; December, 2003, Ann Welton, review of The Empanadas That Abuela Made/Las empanadas que hacía laabuela, p. 142; September, 2004, Ann Welton, review of My Pal, Victor/Mi amigo, Victor, p. 195; January, 2005, Ann Welton, review of Upside down and Backwards/De cabeza al y revés, p. 120; October, 2006, Maria Otero-Boisvert, review of The Ruiz Street Kids/Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz, p. 144.

ONLINE

Children's Literature,http://www.childrenslit.com/ (March 20, 2003), "Meet Authors and Illustrators: Diane Gonzales Bertrand."

Cynthia Leitich Smith Web site,http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (October 24, 2005), interview with Bertrand.

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