Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle: 'I just can't imagine living without libraries

The library opened me up to wanting to explore the world.


I think I became a writer because I loved to read so much.
As the child my mother always took me to the
library at least once a week and I checked out the maximum number of books. By that time I had finished reading every single book in the children's section of the library, I had to sneak into the adult section to find things I hadn't read.

I actually got kicked out of the adult section a few times but it was innocent, I was just going for the travel books.

I just fell in love with the travel section in the adult part of the library. So then I started reading all these travel memoirs and adventures books about different places.

So it opened me up to wanting to explore the world.

My favorite books as a child were the Black Stallion books, which were also adventurous Island of the Blue Dolphins as a young adult.

As a writer, I use libraries constantly, and I especially use interlibrary loan, which has been so important to me, because many of the obscure historical references and in particular, diaries and memoirs from long ago, have not yet been digitized. So those simply aren't available online yet.

I do have to actually try to borrow antique old hard back books that might come to me from a university collection or the Library of Congress.

So I just can't imagine living without libraries. They've been a great pleasure in my life As a writer, my favorite librarian has been Angelica Carpenter, curator emeritus at The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature at the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State University in California. She's just helped me so much in so many ways with my writing projects.

[On budget cuts] It's really tragic and I just hope that it's temporary. I hope that people are willing to subsidized libraries through these hard times until normal budgets come back. and make lots of donations of books to libraries...I keep very few of my books anymore, I donate them to libraries after I read them.

So that if it's not something the library actually wants to keep they can at least sell it to get the money they need to buy the ones they do need.

[On censorship] That's a really difficult subject. Because there are some books that just horrify me, and yet I know that if I were to try to ban them, somebody else would want to ban one of mine.

So I think that in order to enjoy freedom we have to be willing to grant it, as well as receive it.

"The Wild Book" is a novel in verse about the stories my grandmother told me about her childhood growing up in Cuba during wild times during the early twentieth century. following the U.S. occupation of the island after the Spanish American War.

Bandits roamed the countryside kidnapping children for ransom my grandmother was afraid of being kidnapped from her farm, and she also had the inner turmoil of dyslexia. So I've written a novel in verse with very friendly, uncrowded pages, that hopefully will appeal to reluctant readers as well as those who love poetry. And it's true stories that my grandmother told me about her childhood. So it's my most personal novel of verse. The others have been more historical topics.

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Book Title: 

The Surrender Tree

Library Name: 

Henry Madden Library