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Writing and Inspiring

Monica Brown is telling stories. Lots of them.

As a professor of U.S. multiethnic literature and women's studies, her published works include Delinquent Citizens: Nation and Identity in Chicano/a and Puerto Rican Gang Narratives, a scholarly examination, and  Chavela and the Magic Bubble, a children’s book.  Both reflect Brown's lifelong advocacy of cultural studies and bilingual education.

Her first bilingual book for children, My Name Is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz, published in 2004, was awarded the Américas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature. The story is a first-person narrative of the Cuban-born salsa singer, and the award was given to recognize Brown's authentic and engaging portrayal of Cruz’s contribution to U.S. and Latin American culture.

Since then, Brown has published more award-winning children's books. Pablo Neruda: The Poet of the People, won two awards in 2012: the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and the Orbus Pictus Honor Book award. Brown also won a 2012 Christopher Award for Waiting for the Biblioburro. She has been a featured author at the Kennedy Center Multicultural Book Festival, The Texas Book Festival, and the International Book Fair in Panama. She is also the recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship on Chicano Cultural Literacies, a prestigious honor from the Center for Chicano Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

In the classroom

Brown applies her talents and perspectives to benefit students at Northern Arizona University. As former co-chair of the Northern Arizona University Commission on Ethnic Diversity, she helped spearhead the proposal that resulted in the university’s global and U.S. ethnic diversity requirements. And, drawing from her own success pursuing a second career in literature, she lends a hand to students interested in multiple career paths and has led creative writing workshops with other authors.

"I work with many students who are education majors," Brown says. "While we don't use my texts in class, my understanding of children's literature and children's publishing specifically, and U.S. Latino/a literature and cultural history always informs my teaching."

A literature professor at UC Santa Barbara first recognized Brown’s talent as a writer more than 20 years ago, and urged her to go to graduate school. Brown makes it a priority to inspire that same drive in her students.

"I want to make sure that students realize their potential if it is there," Brown says. "If I think that they are not working to that potential, I will be the first to tell them that, too."

Brown believes strongly in her responsibility as a mentor to students and strives to serve as an example, especially to those who haven't found encouragement elsewhere.

"Clearly I get to serve as a role model for ethnic minority students on campus," she says. "Sometimes I am the first Latino with a PhD that they have ever met—I see it as my job to encourage and inspire in the way that I was encouraged and inspired."