Areli Morales - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview
What inspired you to write Areli is a Dreamer?
My own experience of migrating at a young age and growing up undocumented in this country inspired me to write Areli is a Dreamer. As a child, I had to keep my immigration status a secret. The idea that everything could be taken away at any moment and I could be separated from my family was a fear that I had to cope with at a young age. As a result, my undocumented status made growing up really lonely. I also didn’t have books that reflected my experience. As I got older, I grew vocal about my experience and it brought a new sense of relief. When I began my career as a teacher, I realized that there were children that probably shared my experience growing up. So, I decided to share my story in a book to help undocumented immigrant children feel seen, loved and hopefully a little less lonely.
We have been enchanted by the beautiful and haunting story of little Areli. This thought-provoking book has been a beloved anchor of our popular "Stories Pulled from World Headlines" Collection. We were delighted that author Areli Morales took the time to answer our questions! Enjoy!
What do you hope your audience takes away from Areli is a Dreamer? Why do you believe this story is so important to tell?
I believe authentic stories of the immigrant experience written by immigrants themselves can spark important conversations around what it means to leave one’s home for new Land. Through diverse books, we can help immigrant children and adults cope with the struggles that come along with migration. We can also help others empathize with those living in America’s shadows. I want audiences to know that immigrants are more than just their trauma. Immigrants are not invisible, they are humans with so many gifts to offer the world. Immigrants are strong and deserve the right to dream just like everyone else.
What is your favorite page of this book and why?
I have so many favorite pages and the breathtaking illustrations by Luisa Uribe make it so hard to choose. At the moment, my favorite page is the beautiful spread near the end of the book where Luisa depicted a young Areli sailing in the Hudson River with the Statue of Liberty on the horizon and imagining immigrants arriving in America. The spread is significant to me because it acknowledges my story is not all that different from all those who have come before me. Despite the challenges I faced, those challenges taught me that I could shine bright and achieve many dreams. Overall, this moment conveys a message of hope and emphasizes that immigration status does define your worth.
What are you most proud of from this book?
I’m proud that my book has given me the opportunity to connect with so many people. Strangers with similar stories from all parts of the country reached out to me to share their own stories. It was a humbling experience to witness people become storytellers of their truth. Through storytelling we can break those walls that make us feel isolated and start building bridges to reach those in our communities.
What was your favorite picture book growing up?
My favorite book growing up was A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams. It was introduced to me by my favorite second grade teacher! I enjoyed this book because it centers on a loving relationship between a child, a mother, and a grandmother. It reminded me of my relationship with my mama and abuelita. They are always there to guide me, share their wisdom, and shower me with so much love. I love that the family works together to get something special. I can also relate to the experience of loss and working together as a family and community to pull the pieces back together.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Machu Picchu, Peru.
What’s currently on your playlist?
Lots of Spanish music especially songs by Selena, Celia Cruz, Chavela Vargas and Natalia Lafourcade.
What are you currently working on/what are your future goals?
I’m working on learning to be the best teacher I can be to all my students. I’m also working on finding more time to write but it can be challenging with so many things happening in our world. I would love to publish another picture book someday.