|photo: Paul Chouy
David Bowles is a Mexican American author and translator from South Texas. Among his two dozen books is the multiple award-winning They Call Me Güero, as well as the speculative series Garza Twins, 13th Street, Clockwork Curandera, Tales of the Feathered Serpent and The Path. His work has been published in several anthologies, and in the New York Times, School Library Journal and the Journal of Children's Literature. Bowles's debut picture book, My Two Border Towns, was just published by Kokila.
On your nightstand now:
A great middle-grade supernatural mystery by Guadalupe García McCall titled The Keeper (which I luckily got an ARC of) and the moving debut picture book by my friend Gloria Amescua, Child of the Flower-Song People, a biography of model and teacher Luz Jiménez, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh.
Favorite book when you were a child:
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, which I read every Thanksgiving from the age of nine to 15. Though I now recognize the book as flawed and fraught, for a young Chicano reader in the 1980s, the inclusion of Native and Latin American people and places was very validating.
Your top five authors:
My answer to this question shifts often, but this year it's N.K. Jemisin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rolando Hinojosa and the poets Matsuo Bashō and Nezahualcoyotl.
Book you've faked reading:
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, so that one of my English professors would stop needling me to read it. I recommend others avoid it as well, heh.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Bless Me, Última by Rudolfo Anaya. Arguably, the novel is the godfather of all Mexican American literature for adolescents (though Anaya didn't intend to write a YA book). A truly spectacular work that sets the bar high for all of us who choose to walk the trail Anaya blazed.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac. The image of an airborne Native American girl firing two pistols at something looming beneath her? Hooked me immediately. And the book didn't disappoint!
Book you hid from your parents:
Fortunately for me, my parents were always supportive of my love of reading, allowing me to grapple with books well beyond my age (or reading level) without any censorship. Instead, my father would read the books he was suspicious of alongside me, engaging me in conversations about anything he saw as problematic. It was very healthy.
Book that changed your life:
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, which I read in college when I was 19. It was the first book by a Mexican American I had ever read, and it opened me to possibilities I'd never imagined, setting me on the road to becoming the sort of author I am today.
Favorite line from a book:
"What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?" from The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I'm a huge believer in speaking up, of using my voice and whatever power I possess to push back against injustice.
Five books you'll never part with:
The books I return to again and again for unparalleled lessons in what it means to be human--Popol Vuh, The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Moby Dick by Herman Melville and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. The twist toward the end is a poignant gut-punch that left me reeling and pondering my identity for weeks afterward. It's an amazing example of how to use science fiction as a narrative tool for exploring the human condition. I wish I could experience it once more.