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Meg Medina is the first Latinx ambassador for young people's literature

Meg Medina was named a national youth ambassador by the Library of Congress.
Scott Elmquist
Meg Medina was named a national youth ambassador by the Library of Congress.

Updated January 18, 2023 at 12:38 PM ET

The Library of Congress has named Cuban American writer Meg Medina as its new national ambassador for young people's literature. Medina, who writes children's and young adult fiction, is the first Latinx ambassador in the program's history.

"It's a huge honor, but it also comes balanced with this enormous responsibility," Medina tells NPR. "My job is to help America's children construct a reading life."

She takes over the ambassador role from young-adult writer Jason Reynolds.

"That's been one of the encouraging things of watching children's literature, the community develop in recent years," Medina says. "We're getting more varied stories that really match who's in the seats in our schools right now."

Medina's middle-grade novel "Merci Suárez Changes Gears," which won the prestigious Newbery Medal for children's literature in 2019, is part of that wave.

"My books always center on three things: Growing up, culture and family. And how those three things intersect," Medina says. "Sometimes they're beautiful intersections and sometimes they're really bumpy, right?"

Throughout her two-year term as ambassador, Medina will engage with readers across the country with her platform,"Cuéntame," which encourages book discussions beyond the classroom.

"Cuéntame is 'So tell me.' Tell me about books, tell me about what's going on in your library, tell me what your favorite thing was," Medina says.

Medina will be touring schools around the country to talk with students in person, as well as maintaining an online presence to interact with students through social media and other platforms. Some activities will be available in both English and Spanish.

"The power of reading is in its ability to help people sort of see themselves in the pages, understand themselves and how they act and feel," Medina says. "It's in helping build empathy for other people."

Medina takes on the role of ambassador in the face of increased censorship of literature in schools, in particular works with LGBTQ themes and characters. The author's own book, "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass," won the Pura Belpré Award in 2014 and has long been the target of bans.

On Tuesday, January 24, the Library of Congress will be officially welcoming Medina as the newest ambassador for young people's literature. The event will be streamed live on the library's Youtube page.

The audio version of this interview was edited by Reena Advani. The digital story was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Julie Depenbrock
Julie Depenbrock (she/her) is an assistant producer on Morning Edition. Previously, she worked at The Washington Post and on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show. Depenbrock holds a master's in journalism with a focus in investigative reporting from the University of Maryland. Before she became a journalist, she was a first grade teacher in Rosebud, South Dakota. Depenbrock double-majored in French and English at Lafayette College. She has a particular interest in covering education, LGBTQ issues and the environment. She loves dogs, hiking, yoga and reading books for work (and pleasure).