Interview: Maya Christina Gonzalez on Honoring Francisco X. Alarcón and Family

family poems for every day of the weekReleased last fall from the Children’s Book Press imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana is a celebratory collection of poems that highlights the daily life of children every day of the week while also honoring the experiences of Latino poet Francisco X. Alarcón, who passed away in January 2016. We interviewed illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez about the important role that family and friends play in Family Poems for Every Day of the Week and what the creative process was like: 

You’ve captured the beauty of family and togetherness perfectly in this book. Did you and Francisco X. Alarcón discuss which aspects of his childhood to include? 

No. However I worked with Francisco for many years. This is our 6th book together. I think it was very intentional when our publisher at the time Harriet Rohmer first partnered us together back in 1997. My imagery and Francisco’s words resonated, but over the years I’ve understood that it’s more than that. Our inner workings as artists and activists dovetailed too. I think that’s what comes across in our work together, a sense of family within.

In the Illustrator’s Note, you talk about your use of circles and how it serves as a kind of path to bring Francisco back through his family. Was there any other imagery that was important to the story as well?

I think for me it was less about imagery per se and more about the feeling and journey through. The imagery rose from intention. I wanted to bring a sense of timelessness to it. A feeling of eternity and continuity at once. I love craft and particularly the fine hand work from Mexico. I let my hands and the hands of centuries of craftspeople speak to one another. The imagery rose from there.

family poems spread

What is your favorite day of the week and why?

I love every day of the week. I try not to differentiate between them very much. I live life as an artist so I most often work and play every day!

Do you have any weekly traditions with your family? If so, how did they come about?

Our one weekly tradition is drag night. We love Rupaul’s Drag Race and so that’s our night to make a fun dinner and have folks over. It’s a great chance to share with our kid about our family and her grand pops and our neighborhood, the Castro. We weave in history and queer culture and activism with fabulous fashion and crafts!

Your illustrations often celebrate the natural world and its beauty. With the current administration and some of the policies they want to pass to harm the environment, what do you think people can do as an individual and/or as a community to counteract this?

That’s a really big question! We are a part of the natural world. We are nature. I celebrate her to instill that in kids the way my father instilled it in me. We must do everything at all times on every level to remember that we are nature. Every action matters from the most imperative, like addressing legislation, to making sure our kids appreciate and understand the importance of our natural world. We have to think about our kids’ relationship with nature and how we are supporting or not supporting it which means making sure we have our own real relationship with nature.

Purchase a copy of Family Poems for Every Day of the Week/Poemas familiares para cada día de la semana here.

Further Resources

  • See the Teacher’s Guide here
  • Purchase the Cycle of the Seasons Poetry Collection here
  • See other titles by Francisco X. Alarcón and Maya Christina Gonzalez here

Maya Christina Gonzalez is a widely exhibited artist renowned for her vivid imagery of strong women and girls. She has illustrated nearly twenty children’s books, including the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor title My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo, and her artwork has appeared on the cover of Contemporary Chicano/a Art. She lives and plays in San Francisco, California.