CSU, Chico News

Cubanabooks, Led by CSU, Chico Professor Sara E. Cooper, Wins Multiple Awards at International Latino Book Competition

Date: 10-12-2016

CONTACT: Sara E. Cooper
Spanish Faculty
CONTACT: Michele Chandler
Public Affairs

Cubanabooks, a book publisher founded by California State University, Chico Spanish Professor Sara E. Cooper, recently collected five awards at the International Latino Book Awards (ILBA).

That milestone marks the first time that Cubanabooks, a tiny, nonprofit publisher started in 2010, has won any accolades from the book publishing industry.

The ILBA is a major literary competition in the U.S. that features Latino books, and this year it called upon 200 judges to evaluate a crush of entries written in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Finalists in the competition, held in September, came from 18 countries including the U.S.

With the awards elevating Cubanabooks, Cooper is edging closer to what she calls her “mission in life”—bringing widespread recognition to a wave of Cuban women writers who aren’t well known in the U.S. today.

“I want to build bridges so strong that nobody is ignorant about Cuba, and that make Cuban women authors household names,” said Cooper, a professor of Spanish and multicultural and gender studies at CSU, Chico. “There are so many excellent Cuban women writers who have not been published outside of Cuba. They deserve to be read at very, very broad levels.”

Cubanabooks shines a light on those authors by translating already-published books from the writer’s native Spanish into English, making their works accessible to a wider audience. Cooper does some of the translations.

So far, Cubanabooks has published eight titles, with five more in the pipeline and plans to add the press’ first science fiction book.

The niche publisher’s books took home two first place awards in the ILBA competition: for Best Fiction Book Translation—Spanish to English; and for Best Poetry Book—Bilingual. Cubanabooks also placed second in two categories and received one honorable mention.

The competition was held Sept. 8 at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

“Winning these awards made me feel humble, proud and grateful,” said Cooper.

Cooper said she and her team of volunteers and student interns celebrated their wins with a pizza party at her Chico home, where they stickered the covers of the winning Cubanabooks paperbacks with ILBA medallions reading, “Award Winning Author.”

Cubanabooks often brings its authors to the University to speak. The next event is scheduled for March, when writer Uva de Aragón will come to CSU, Chico to talk about her award-winning historical fiction novel, The Memory of Silence/Memoria del silencio.

Having an opportunity to read the writers’ books in her classes and then get to hear them talk in person benefits students immensely, Cooper said.

Not only are CSU, Chico students “getting exposed to actual Cuban literature from Cuba, which is still a fairly rare occurrence,” she said, “this puts our students in the vanguard of those who are prepared to move forward in a professional world that could include ties with Cuba.”

Interest in Cuba and its culture is growing in the U.S., following President Barack Obama’s recent historic efforts to normalize diplomatic relations between the two nations. In March, Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba in 88 years.

“I would love, over the next 10 years, for Cubanabooks to grow and, at the same time, for U.S.-Cuba political and economic relations to completely normalize to a point that Cuban women writing can be mainstreamed,” Cooper said.

Then, she added, “we wouldn’t need to have a press that was taking care of making sure that Cuban women are heard.”

Cubanabooks’ awards from the 2016 International Latino Book Awards include:

Best Fiction Book Translation—Spanish to English:
1st Place: An Address in Havana/Domicilio habanero by María Elena Llana and translated by Barbara Riess
2nd Place: The Bleeding Wound/Sangra por la herida by Mirta Yáñez and translated by Sara E. Cooper

Best Poetry Book—Bilingual:
1st Place: Always Rebellious/Cimarroneando by Georgina Herrera and translated by Juanamaría Cordones-Cook

Honorable Mention: Homing Instincts/Querencias by Nancy Morejón and translated by Pamela Carmell

Best Novel—Historical Fiction—Bilingual or Spanish:
2nd Place: The Memory of Silence/Memoria del silencio byUva de Aragón and translated by Jeffrey C. Barnett

The International Latino Book Awards 2016 was produced by Latino Literacy Now, a nonprofit that advocates for improved literacy throughout the Latino community. The event’s sponsors include REFORMA: The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an affiliate of the American Library Association that promotes library collections which include Spanish-language and Latino-themed materials.