THE LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL: Connecting Readers and Authors

Updated: Oct 25

The 70th Latino Book & Family Festival was held this October at the beautiful MiraCosta College campus in Oceanside, California.



The festival was hugely successful, thanks to the Empowering Latino Futures team behind it. This is an organization formerly known as Latino Literacy Now, founded by media expert Kirk Whisler and actor Edward James Olmos. ELF is credited with helping hold Latino Book & Family Festivals in over 10 cities around the country, as well as with hosting the International Latino Book Awards to honor authors and publishers.


The 2002 film Real Women Have Curves, starring America Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros, was screened at MiraCosta College to kick off the Latino Book & Family Festival. Josefina Lopez, who wrote Real Women Have Curves, and Victor Villaseñor, author of four national bestsellers who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times, were the keynote speakers at the event.


Heart Of Hollywood CEO Giovanna Salas and Heart Of Hollywood Magazine editor Sandy Rodriguez attended this exciting festival.


Sandy is the author of Choose to Prevail, a book which caught the eye of countless visitors. Readers can expect to feel an increase in their self-confidence, self-acceptance, and sense of calm as they deal with the world. This is a conversational book, with a light sprinkling of humor and no toxic positivity.


Choose to Prevail was the 2021 Gold Medal winner in the Best Health & Wellness Book category of the International Latino Book Awards. It was also the 2021 Readers' Favorite Silver Medal Winner in the Non-Fiction - Grief/Hardship genre.

Over 40 other wonderful authors were at the event as well. These included Esther Reyes Jones, who wrote the charming children's books La Señora with the Blue Lipstick and Señora Felice Returns Home.


Alma Lazar was also in Oceanside to promote her inspirational book When the Light Goes Out, available both in English and Spanish. Based on a true story, it describes the life of an abused child who experiences only fleeting success as an adult. Eventually, he taps into love, courage, and strength, and realizes that nothing can keep him from reaching his goals.


Evelyn Gonzalez’s young adult book The 16 Rule, also published in Spanish, attracted teenage readers. This novel focuses on a fifteen-year-old who wants to live a normal American life, but her strict Latino parents’ demands lead her to lie.


Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin offered Chicana On Fire: Ignited by the 1970's East L.A. Chicano Protest Movement. It features poetry and creative writing about the struggles and the resilience of Mexicans and Chicanos on both sides of the border.


Along with the authors, Kirk Whisler himself was at the event. He is considered a celebrity within Latino and Hispanic media circles. Besides cofounding Empowering Latino Futures, he is President of the Latino 247 Media Group, which reaches over 600 media outlets across the U.S., and served as founding president of the National Association of Hispanic Publications in 1982.



Other event highlights included dance performances, workshops, and booths showcasing all kinds of exhibitors, such as libraries, insurance companies, newspapers, real estate agents, and gourmet tamales.


Festival attendees could pick up a copy of the North County Informador. This bilingual publication serving North San Diego is an outgrowth of the Latino Book & Family Festivals. It was created since Empowering Latino Futures has numerous North County partners in the education, nonprofit services, and government program fields.


Longtime Heart Of Hollywood Magazine photographer and friend Ernie Tyler, who recently received an award for his extraordinary Fashion Photography from the Inland Valley Business and Community Foundation, arrived at the book fair and captured the day’s energy with his trusty camera.


Sandy Rodriguez had been at the Latino Book & Family Festival last year, but only virtually. Our Heart Of Hollywood Magazine editor was then part of an online panel alongside authors Dr. Ma. Alma González Pérez, Ismée Williams, Susannah Rodríguez Drissi, and Cecilia Aragón. Sandy was delighted to be at this year’s event in person, and encourages everyone, Latino or not, to attend future editions.


"It's time for Latinos to share their writing with the world. Mainstream American publishers must understand that books by or about Latinos can appeal to anyone, regardless of ancestry or place of origin. This depends on the topic, not on whether or not the reader shares a background with the author or the characters," says Sandy.


Giovanna Salas, Heart Of Hollywood CEO, believes that promoting authors is important.


“Heart Of Hollywood Magazine is an entertainment publication. We cover movies, TV, music, and all the other fields that you might imagine”, Giovanna explains. “However, we also believe books are a source of entertainment, which is why we share information about them.”


Photos: Ernie Tyler.



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