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LA Libros Fest: Interview With Antonio Sacre

Lupita Leyva, Senior Librarian, Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library,
antonio sacre

Antonio Sacre tells stories. His tales of growing up bilingually in a Cuban and Irish-American household have inspired children worldwide to gather their own family stories and become storytellers themselves. His stories have been published in award-winning books and audio recordings. His professional developments and keynote addresses have helped educators teach writing to students from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Now his stories are being developed for film and television. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two children, and two cats. Yes, he's a cat guy.

Antonio will be one of the featured authors at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. Celebrating oral traditions, the festival will feature stories and music from Latin America—including México, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia—and the United States. LA Libros Fest will take place at the Los Angeles Central Library on September 28, 2019, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

How did you begin writing and performing?

My mom gave me a blank journal for my 8th birthday and told me to write in it. I never knew what to write about, and it remained blank for many months. She would journal all the time, and one day I asked her what she wrote in her journals. She said that she would write about things that made her feel happy or sad, and small things that didn’t necessarily feel special at the time but might one day. That gift, plus her example of writing, laid the groundwork. I intermittently journal now, and that practice helps me.

In college, I discovered theater, and it was doing Children’s Theater that I felt most at home. As I pursued a Masters in Theater degree from Northwestern University in Chicago, I took a storytelling class and was mentored by some of the finest storytellers in the country that just happened to be in Chicago. My storytelling work and passion allowed me to meet publishers and agents that wanted to help my stories find a bigger home, and that’s how I became an author.

It all blends together now, my writing practice my mom helped cultivate, the hard work and perseverance it took me to complete university and graduate work, the support of my family, and the guidance of professional storytellers and publishers to help my work reach a larger audience.

What does being an author and performer mean to you?

When I first started telling stories, I told a mixture of personal stories and folk tales from Cuba (my father’s birth place), America (my birthplace), and Ireland (my mother’s heritage). It was a joy and privilege to share my unique background and upbringing—a friend of mine calls me a Leprecano—and see where it touched the universal in my audiences. As I got older, many of the dear family members I told stories about passed away, so telling their stories became a way of keeping their memories alive. Seeing some of my family stories in print mean that they will last longer and reach more people than will ever hear me tell in person, and that means the world to me. Also, my own children get to see me pursuing a passion that I hope inspires them to pursue their own dreams as they get older.

What place do books have in your life? What about libraries?

Books are a daily part of my life. My local library in Chicago was the first place I researched folk tales to tell, the first place to allow me to perform my stories for the public, and the first place that ever paid me to tell stories! In my work as an author, whenever I have research to do for a book I am writing, the first place I go to is my local library here in Los Angeles, and the second place is the beautiful downtown L.A. branch. Libraries remain my favorite place to perform, to get inspired, and to bring my own children to year-round.

What inspired you to participate in the Los Angeles Libros Festival?

They asked me! Actually, even if they didn’t ask me, I would have brought my family to it, because my wife and I are committed to raising our children bilingually. Our children are currently studying in a dual-language program in the Los Angeles Unified School District, learning to read, write, and speak in both English and Spanish. The work that the Los Angeles Public Library, REFORMA, and LA librería have done and do to support bilingual families like ours is so important and appreciated, and I try to learn from them and support them whenever I can.

What do you think engages/connects children and families so well to your work?

Some of my stories and books are so simple: the story of how my family celebrates Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena as my Cuban family calls it), the story of picking a mango from my abuela’s tree, a joke she told me about the importance of being bilingual, a water balloon fight I had with my brothers. I think many families see themselves in my stories and are reminded of how powerful and fun their own stories are, and hopefully leave one of my shows thinking their own stories are better than mine! I hope they go home and tell their own stories, keep the memory of their elders alive, and publish their own books when they get older. Lastly, I try to be as funny as I can, knowing that humor is a way to get the audience to see how much we have in common, even if the particulars of our individual stories are so different. See you at the festival!

Books by Antonio Sacre

My name is cool: 18 stories from a Cuban-Irish-American storyteller
Sacre, Antonio
A Mango in the Hand: A Story Told Through Proverbs
Sacre, Antonio

Antonio Sacre at LA Libros Fest