Pura Belpré

Puerto Rican writer, puppeteer, and librarian

Pura Belpré (February 2, 1899 – July 1, 1982) was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City, as well as a writer, collector of folktales, and puppeteer.

Quotes edit

  • In this present struggle to fight poverty, hunger and fear, and to bring some semblance of peace and security into the home, the need for serenity and beauty seem to be forgotten. Food alone can't do it. It needs an elevation of spirit that transcends all materialities. This serenity, this beauty, is apparent in the faces of the children in the story hour room. For a while at least, through the power of a story and the beauty of its language, the child escapes to a world of his own. He leaves the room richer than when he entered it.
    • "My Work in the Children's Room" in The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré by Lisa Sánchez González (2013)
  • This paper should be filled with statistics, but no statistic can show the joy of a child who runs around the room to tell his friends, "She speaks Spanish. She can help you with your books."
    • "My Work in the Children's Room" in The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré by Lisa Sánchez González (2013)
  • Puerto Rico is a beautiful island, with a culture enriched by old, old stories gained from many people. Traces of this culture are everywhere. And there are still many more story seeds waiting to be planted.
    • "I Wished to be Like Johnny Appleseed" in The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré by Lisa Sánchez González (2013)
  • Statehood will destroy Puerto Rico's national identity in short order, while the present Commonwealth system will destroy it as surely, though more slowly...I repeat now the words that I wrote to my distinguished friend Don Luis Ferré in a public letter, October 6, 1964: God save the children of Puerto Rico from the day when they have to be protected from discrimination practiced against them by people of alien origin in the schools of their own land.
    • "Statehood/Commonwealth" in The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré by Lisa Sánchez González (2013)

"Writing a Story" edit

in The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré by Lisa Sánchez González (2013)

  • Research is always necessary for accuracy in a story. But once you begin the process of writing a story, forget the attitude of the researcher and become the storyteller. Divide your mind into three parts, because with every sentence, every scene, and every chapter, you must be thinking of three things at the same time. One part of you lives with the hero or heroine of the story. Crawl into his mind and stay there, seeing the world through his eyes. The second part of you must be able to look around the corner, past the days, the months, and the years ahead to the final scene. The third part of you must be thinking of your reader, for your story will not happen on paper; it will happen first in the imagination of your reader. What you commit to paper should be geared to making the story live for him. So think of the reader. Likewise, there are three general things to remember about your readers. First, don't tell them anything show them...Second, writing for your reader is like going on a picnic. Both writing and picnics take a bit of planning...Third, remember that your reader is primarily interested in plot.
  • When you remember these three basic things about readers in general-that they like suspense, that they want to see the story happen and, most important of all, that they want to feel the story happen-then you are ready to think about the particular reader.
  • I would also make the following general suggestions. Don't get enthralled with your own vocabulary. Avoid flashbacks. Remember that children's dreams are often outsized. Don't forget the magnificent sweep of the imagination and dreams of youth; when a boy comes only to a man's shoulders, his dreams are tall. Through all the hardships and heartbreaks, these dreams often become realities. And last of all, when writing for adolescents, remember that they know more, feel more, and understand more than some grown-ups realize.

“The Reluctant Reader: What Makes Him?” edit

in The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré by Lisa Sánchez González (2013)

  • In my opinion, the answer to what makes a reluctant reader is the lack of motivation in the home; non-reading parents, lack of verbal communication, working parents too tired to answer questions, lack of books around the house, and too much dependence on television for entertainment. But the reluctant reader must learn to read, and that is left to the school. The school is not without fault in failing him. Too much stress on pedagogical reading material has left no room for reading for pleasure; in fact it has destroyed any incentive for it. Somewhere on the way, the individuality of the child has been lost in the effort to make of him just "teaching material." Classes that are too large have made matters worse. Lucky is the child from such a group that finds the public library and discovers its picture book or reading hours.
  • There is a mistaken idea that the reluctant reader is mainly a product of poverty in disadvantaged areas. Nothing can be further from the truth. These children share the universality of childhood-that is theirs regardless of their status in life. They have their hopes, dreams, and little joys. They need a little more individual care-a feeling, perhaps of love-to fill the vacuum of so many hours alone. They respond quickly and naturally to attention because they are sensitive children.
  • A bilingual child is often considered a reluctant reader mainly because he is just beginning to learn English as a second language. Here the problem is mainly the lack of understanding on the teacher's part.

Quotes about Pura Belpré edit

Lisa Sánchez González, The Stories I Read to the Children: The Life and Writing of Pura Belpré (2013) edit

  • While her biography might very well place her in a direct line to the emphasis on blackness in the Nuyorican soundings of Boricua identity in the post-68 generation of poets and activists, and beyond to more contemporary poetry and novels, we must recognize that she knew Arturo Schomburg, she knew Piri Thomas, and she was very active in the 1960s and 1970s in New York City during the apogee of the Young Lords Party and the Nuyorican poetry movement. Yet she did not choose to explore African diasporan identity per se, nor the blackness intrinsic to Puerto Rican culture, in her writing and public intellectual work of that period. Perhaps, in her view, that went without saying; in many of her unpublished essays and other archival papers, she cites what in today's academic terms would be a radically multiracial and multi-ethnic view of the roots of Puerto Rican literature, including the African diaspora as one of the taproots. Scholarship on Belpré, like the scholarship on Arturo Schomburg, is still evolving, if slowly (Torres-Padilla 2002; Núñez 2009; Jimenez Garcia 2011).
  • Did she, like her contemporary Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938), have intergenerational family ties to the French Caribbean islands? Was she somehow of French descent, like Luisa Capetillo? The absence of such basic information in Belpré's papers is striking since she offers so much information about her adult life. Either Belpré, a gifted storyteller, preferred not to talk too much about her family's history or simply did not know much about it. It is probably not a coincidence that three of the most important stateside Puerto Rican public intellectuals of that period-Belpré, Arturo Schomburg, and Jesús Colón (1901-1974)-as diverse as their worldviews and interests were, were each quiet about or prone to fictionalizing their family histories in Puerto Rico. Intriguing too is that all three of these prominent Boricuas were a darker shade of brown, and therefore must have suffered racialized discrimination not only in the larger U.S. society but also within the Puerto Rican community itself.
  • Among other inspirations, including her natural gifts and formal training as a storyteller, Belpré's polyglot familiarity with excellent children's literature and the tutelage she had from her senior women colleagues at the NYPL had the more profound effect on her sensibilities as an author and folklorist.
  • In sheer quality, The Tiger and the Rabbit and Other Tales is arguably Belpré's finest work.

External links edit

Wikipedia has an article about: