Nicolas Kanellos starts American Book Review Series
Sept. 4, 2014 at 6:06 p.m.
Updated Sept. 5, 2014 at 3:11 a.m.
Video by Natassia Bonyanpour for The Victoria Advocate
With decades-old photos illustrating him advocating for civil rights, Nicolas Kanellos commenced the American Book Review Series at the University of Houston-Victoria on Thursday.
Kanellos founded the nation's largest nonprofit publisher of literature, Arte Publico Press, and began The Americas Review. He is also the director of Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, which has maintained thousands of documents dating back to the colonial period.
During Kanellos' presentation, he showed many preserved literary works, including a trilingual newspaper from New Orleans, which featured articles in Spanish, English and French.
"With our recovery program, we found things that you would never ever have access to," Kanellos said. "It gave new life to books and literature."
Kanellos also delivered a historic account of the trials and triumphs of Hispanic writers through time.
"We often combat the myth that (Hispanics) were not thinkers or writers," Kanellos said. "But we were."
Kanellos spoke of many books during the event, including "Rain of Gold" by Victor Villasenor.
It became a best-seller after much difficulty; it did not receive national recognition because the cover was "too ethnic" for publishing companies, Kanellos said.
UHV freshman Joanne Carrejo said she already had an idea about the struggle Hispanics faced in literature, but not to the extent that Kanellos revealed.
"I am just starting off as a creative writing major," she said. "As a Latina, I think it's great to see all the writers that are being uncovered - even as old as the 1800s."
UHV Dean of Arts and Sciences Jeffrey Di Leo said Kanellos was perfect to kick-start the series so that students become more informed about heritage.
"This is what a university does," Di Leo said. "It educates students on their history, particularly the part that is not obvious. Hispanic literature in the United States is not a story that commonly known; it's still being written."
When wrapping up his discussion, Kanellos said he felt a positive, integrative future for Hispanic literature.
"We hope that Latino kids will grow up with these cultural references around them," he said. "This is a tremendous opportunity to have this kind of literary activity in Victoria."