Author Spotlight: NoNieqa Ramos
Sept. 16, 2022
We're excited to feature author NoNieqa Ramos and their newest picture book, BEAUTY WOKE, illustrated by Paola Escobar (Versify), out now. Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
I published my debut young adult novel, The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary in 2019 with Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner Books), and there began my publishing journey with my protagonist Macy, unlikeable, uncontrollable, and guaranteed to break your things and your heart. Tired of her narrative being told through the filter of Child Protective Services, her Individualized Education Plan for intellectual disability, and her father’s imprisonment, Macy writes her own narrative through a dictionary.
This book journey gave me my first platform to talk about social justice, equity, and mental health awareness. So much of my publishing journey is inextricably tied to my desire change the narrative-- and in community with my fellow BIPOC creators--write a world that is safe, nurturing, and inspiring for our Littles.
Beauty Woke was my third publication in the picture book realm. After the acceptance of my debut, Your Mama by Kwame Alexander’s imprint Versify, I had to decide what to submit next. I had the fortunate (and nerve-wracking!) surprise invitation to visit Kwame Alexander in his studio and read my draft for Beauty Woke aloud. He read me a selection from a favorite childhood book, which had a call and response element just like my story. He made brilliant editorial suggestions to help the cream rise to the top. The book was accepted shortly thereafter.
During the editorial process, I worked with Kwame, Weslie–and Boricua Las Musas writers Mia Garcia and Carmen Rodriguez– to ensure factual, respectful, and dynamic Puerto Rican representation.
Because Beauty Woke deals with such sensitive topics as racism with a young audience, I labored feverishly to ensure I was treating my future readers with tender loving care. While Your Mama was purely a work of joy and exultation, Beauty Woke was a labor of pain and joy. Both are messages of unconditional love to children.
Congrats on your recent picture book Beauty Woke! Tell us about the book and what inspired you.
Every parent, caregiver, and educator reading this blog knows they are a protector of children. We want our children to be free from adult concerns. But this isn’t a luxury most BIPOC children have ever had. Every minute of every hour of every day, the outside world of racial violence seeps in.
In Beauty Woke, Beauty’s family loves her tremendously. Despite their nurturing and care, they can not burn all the spinning wheels ie. they cannot keep racism from entering their household. When Beauty listens to the news, she hears anti-immigrant rhetoric for the first time. She sees people who look like her and her family stereotyped and denigrated. But the story of Beauty Woke does not end in despair. My mission in writing this book was to provide validation, healing, and hope to children.
With the love and strength of her family, her ancestors, and her community, Beauty emerges from despair, embraces her cultural identity, and awakens to the beauty, power, and strength that pulses through her veins.
Was your initial road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I am a late bloomer. My first complete young adult novel written around 2016 was called Switch, and involved the switch of a girl in purgatory who committed suicide with a girl on earth. My first picture books submitted to the Writer’s League of Texas at about that time, were called Baaad Sheep and Tattle Snake. The road to finding myself and my aesthetic and my mission took a detour until 2019!
What projects are your working on now?
Currently, I am revising a speculative fiction/fantasy short story for young adult anthology and a dystopian young adult novel! I can’t wait to share the news about their publication!
What are some of your favorite classic picture books? recent ones?
To be honest, I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, even though I know I must have because I was such an avid reader my entire childhood. I’m pretty sure the fact that NONE of this picture books looked or sounded like me and my family is the reason why my memories of most of them have disappeared in the ether.
Even when I looked for books for my first child, born in 2008, I had a hard time finding diverse books. It wasn't until my second child came into my life in 2013 that I started finding books that resonated with us both.
Here are just a few we are reading and rereading now!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
When I attended the Bronx Book Festival in June 2022, my tía attended. She looked around at all the the diverse authors on various panels and said, “So these are your competition.”
I laughed and responded, “No, these are my support, my lifeline. These people are why I’m here today.”
My advice to writers is community is always the answer. Together we access information, knowledge, insight, wisdom, and opportunity. Especially in a career fraught with rejection, community is vital for mental health and emotional support.
And, together we celebrate our success!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
See the answer to question 3 (about my road to publication)!
Where can people find you online?
I am on Twitter and Instagram @nonieqaramos!
NoNieqa’s debut picture book YOUR MAMA illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara was a School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2021, a Kirkus Best Picture Book of the 2021, and a National Council of English Books Notable Poetry Book. Their picture book BEAUTY WOKE illustrated by Paola Escobar has earned starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. Kirkus said of Beauty, “This bold manifesto of cultural awareness reaches out to awaken the sleepwalkers among us.” A highlight of their summer was teaching a fairy tale retelling workshop to high school newcomers in Texas and watching the kids at their author signing table autographing their stories! NoNieqa lives in Virginia with their familia in a plantopia of books and Legos.
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