Texas State’s Tomás Rivera Award winners honored at 2023 Texas Book Festival

todayNovember 14, 2023 37 5

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By Cayla Soriano

Assistant Copy Editor


Tomas Rivera Award poster with award winners being represented.
Tomás Rivera Award Winners, Celia C Pérez, and Aida Salazar. | Cayla Soriano

Aida Salazar and Celia C. Pérez were honored at the 2023 Texas Book Fair on Nov. 11, 2023, where they talked about their award-winning books, “A Seed in the Sun” and “Tumble.” The authors were also honored at Texas State University in the LBJ Student Center Grand Ballroom on Nov. 9 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, where their books were available to purchase.

Texas State created the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, which is in honor of Texas State alum, Tomás Rivera, in 1995 to celebrate authors and illustrators who create pieces of work that share the Mexican American experience. Rivera was a Mexican American author and educator who graduated from Texas State University with his bachelor’s and master’s degree. He then went on to achieve his Ph. D. at the University of Oklahoma. Before his passing in 1984, Rivera gifted the literary world with numerous short stories and thoughtful poetry pieces, but he is best known for his novel, “y no se lo tragó la tierra.” (1971) Rivera received the first Premio Quinto Sol literary award in 1971 for this novel.

Award winning authors sitting at a table during an open panel discussion.
Celia C. Pérez and Aida Salazar during an open panel discussion. | Cayla Soriano

“A Seed in the Sun” written by Aida Salazar, is a powerful coming of age story about a 12-year-old girl named Lula in a family of migrant farmworkers, who joins the 1965 protest for workers’ rights. This book is a classic retelling of a young girl trying to find her voice as she enters the stage of being a young adult. Salazar explains this book to be a historical journey as well as a novel in verse, or a book told in poems. “It’s important for us to learn history, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Salazar said. “It’s a story about struggle, a story about finding your voice within a movement but also within your family.”

As you go through the novel, Salazar has strategically written the book to where you couldn’t skip around; the next page will be relevant to the last. To understand the story and the message, you must read the series of poems to truly understand the story within. “You can’t go in and read the last poem like you would in a book collection of poetry. A novel in verse, you have to read it from beginning to end,” Salazar said. “There’s a certain magic in poetry that I really like to get down with, but I try to make this as beautiful and as artfully done as I can. Lula’s voice is at the center of everything.”

“Tumble” written by Celia C. Pérez, is about a 12-year-old girl named Adela or “Addie” who is proposed with the question of adoption by her stepfather. With a half-baby brother on the way and a school theater performance, Addie deals with the internal struggles of big decisions and family backgrounds. Pérez uses her childhood upbringing and experiences to fuel the story within her novels.  “A lot of my writing comes from my own experiences growing up, “Pérez said. “I try to write an expansive view of what it is to be Mexican American.”

The “Tumble” author broaches the subject on underrepresented Hispanic characters in literature and how they are classified in a certain area, such as historical or people of misfortune. Pérez aims to represent the community in a different light that is opposite than what has been told. “Growing up I didn’t see Mexican American characters in books. Then when you started to see them, they were always being placed in the past or in situations of trauma,” Pérez said. Pérez ended her statement by expressing how important it is to see other Hispanic characters in literature. “It is also important to see what else it means to be Mexican American and how different that could be for people based on where they’re living and what their experiences are.”

If you are interested in supporting the award-winning authors, you can purchase their books at any Barnes and Noble location as well as online. To learn more about the Tomás Rivera Award, visit

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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