Lilliam Rivera the author of The Education Of Margot Sanchez visited the High School for Media and Communications in March, as a part of the school’s “What it Takes” lecture series.
Rivera’s debut young adult (YA) book The Education Of Margot Sanchez is about a young teenage girl who is desperately trying to fit into her expensive private school, obnoxious friends, a dysfunctional family, all while making the bad choice of stealing her father’s credit card which she must repay through a summer of working in her family supermarket, states the author’s website.
Rivera opened the event with a presentation about her life and what paved the path to her writing career. She explained that reading was embedded into her family’s tradition as she grew up which nourished her love for books. However, Rivera noticed that most books she read were not relatable to her life, ethnicity, or issues.
The author and young mother informed us, that growing up her father had already set expectations and goals for her, however, none of these goals interested her or her passions.
“There was no such thing as writing or being a writer. All of these things are meant for people who have money or white people. Definitely not hard working Puerto Ricans. We are meant to work hard and that meant not to go into the arts. That meant to not write,” Rivera explained.
Rivera then shared her life and college experiences, explaining the struggle of living alone in college without any family. “There were moments where I didn’t even have enough money to buy lunch,” Rivera said. This did not break the author’s spirit however.
She strongly believed she needed to write books that would relate to people of color and their issues. “I didn’t see any Latina or person of color, so I felt like my story didn’t count.” Rivera expressed that when reading a book as a young child and teen she never saw people of her ethnicity writing, which led her to want to see more people like her and the ones in her community on book covers. That is why the cover of “The Education Of Margot Sanchez” is a teen of color and the main character Margot is a young Latina.
After the short introduction of her life, Rivera read a short excerpt from her book and expanded on the character Margot.
Rivera then opened up the floor to questions. Students were motivated to ask questions about the book and her personal life and took the opportunity to ask questions such as, “Was this book based off your experiences?” Rivera explained that some parts were based off of her life but she also wanted everyone to be able to connect with Margot and the 21st century issues represented in the book by making the setting of the story New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world.
Rivera also expanded on the question by sharing how specifically the setting was in the Bronx. “The Bronx is often viewed as a bad place, but there are people who are falling in love in the Bronx, making families and art!” Rivera stated. She wanted to shine a light on the fact that the Bronx was a beautiful part of the city that holds a lot of memories and occasions which caused cheers from the crowd of students.
Rivera shared how important it was for her to hold the launch party for her book in the Bronx because it “inspired my book and story.”
After many questions from students, Rivera shared news of her second YA book she’s writing. “This book will be all about girl power, it’ll be about badass gangs made of girls running the streets. Of course I don’t support gangs, however this gang feels more like a family. It’ll be coming out soon and I think you guys will love it,” Rivera announced that the book will be coming out on the fall of 2018.
At the close of the lecture, Media students took a group picture with Rivera with The Education Of Margot Sanchez pins pinned on their clothes. The pins were a warm gift from Rivera to each of the students.
Author Lilliam Rivera (center) inspires Media students to write their stories.