Oakland's Maceo Cabrera Estevez founded the subscription service Booklandia with the intention of helping bilingual families find high-quality, Spanish-language children's books. Azucena Rasilla
Oakland's Maceo Cabrera Estevez founded the subscription service Booklandia with the intention of helping bilingual families find high-quality, Spanish-language children's books. (Azucena Rasilla )

Oakland's Booklandia Brings a World of Bilingual Books to Families’ Doorsteps

Oakland's Booklandia Brings a World of Bilingual Books to Families’ Doorsteps

Maceo Cabrera Estevez sits comfortably barefoot on her leather couch at home in East Oakland, just off of Seminary Avenue. A bookcase filled with children's books takes up nearly an entire wall of her living room, making it the focal point of the cozy space. Estevez homeschools her children Omar and Azalea, eight and six, and her love of literature and eagerness to pass it on is immediately noticeable. 

“I was the Avon lady of books, with children's books,” an elated Estevez says of starting Booklandia, a subscription box service that helps parents of bilingual kids—and those who want to learn Spanish—get access to quality books by Latinx writers mostly based in the United States.

The name Booklandia alludes to a fairytale of sorts. In Spanish, the suffix "-landia" loosely translates to "the land of"—Disneyland becomes "Disneylandia," for instance. Booklandia is, indeed, the magical world of Spanish-language and bilingual books in Oakland. "When you get books [from Booklandia], you're going into a world," Estevez says. "That’s what reading is about."

Past Estevez' kitchen (where the book subscription service got its start back in 2016), boxes of books by dozens of authors fill a storage room. "I did this as a service to families who are raising bilingual kids," Estevez says. "It has been common conversation of people having a difficult time finding authentic literature."

Making sure that Booklandia's books represent a wide variety of Spanish-speaking communities has been a crucial part of Estevez' business. She remembers getting a request from a biracial family in Spain looking for books that featured Black characters. "Her husband is African, and she wanted books that had Black children in them," Estevez says of shipping a translation of Anna McQuinn's series, Lola, all the way across the pond.

For Estevez, finding books that are not just translated but authored by Latinx writers is also essential. She mentions how, oftentimes, books originally written in English do not reflect Latinx culture and upbringings: the authenticity of Latinx identity isn't there, and neither is the richness of Spanish vocabulary. One author she likes in particular is San Francisco native Monica Brown, whose book, Esperando el Biblioburro (Waiting for el Biblioburro, or Library-on-a-Donkey), tells the real story of teacher and librarian Luis Soriano Bohórquez, who travels with his donkey through the valleys of rural Colombia to bring literature to kids in remote villages.

A Booklandia subscription box featuring Robert Trujillo's 'Furquan's First Flat Top,' Eduardo Espada's 'Donde Esta El Coqui' and more.
A Booklandia subscription box featuring Robert Trujillo's 'Furquan's First Flat Top,' Eduardo Espada's 'Donde Esta El Coqui' and more. (Azucena Rasilla)

The desire to raise bilingual kids is nothing new: the California Department of Education reports that in the fall of 2017, roughly 42.3 percent of the state's public school students spoke a language other than English at home. In recent years, bilingual education has become more commonplace. In 2016, Prop. 58 allowed schools to implement bilingual education according to students needs, repealing a decades-long ban.

Sponsored

Estevez collaborates with teachers across the Bay Area, furnishing their classrooms with bilingual books. One of those teachers is Margarita Garcia Villa, who teaches Spanish to K-5th grade Latinx, Black and Pacific Islander kids at an Aspire charter school in East Palo Alto. Villa found Booklandia through Instagram. "I like a lot of the title selections," Villa says. "I was pleased that there's a large selection of books that I can use for my read-out-loud in the classroom."

"I like that [Booklandia] has different age ranges, and fiction versus non-fiction," Villa continues. "It's helpful to just go to one site to get them all." For Villa, it's also important to support local businesses rather than large corporations like Amazon. She hopes that as Booklandia grows, so will its diversity of books.

Getting books from countries other than the United States is next on Estevez' priority list. The problem: books authored and printed in other countries tend to be a lot more expensive. Estevez hopes to buy the rights to publish international titles locally.

Another consideration of Estevez' is ensuring that her book selection doesn't enforce harmful stereotypes about race, gender, religion or sexuality. She's frustrated by the lack of books by Afro-Latinx writers. "There's a lot of anti-Blackness everywhere," she says of not having enough books that feature Black characters. "As book sellers, we have to advocate for [representation]."

Booklandia's subscription boxes range from $27.95 to $32.95, and Estevez is aware that not all families have the means for a monthly, bimonthly or quarterly subscription. She gives the option of a one-time purchase, and often sells at book fairs and pop-up events around the Bay Area. She also partnered with Jacky Hunter, the owner of Kelly's Corner in Oakland's Laurel District. At the kids' and women's clothing store, Booklandia has a permanent nook.

Estevez wants Booklandia to be a welcoming place for native Spanish speakers and those who aren't fluent alike. "There's so many different ways to raise a bilingual family," Estevez says. "There's no right or wrong way. You have to find the way, and there are a lot of resources now that people didn't have before. It's important to keep the language alive."

Booklandia will be at Molcajete Dominguero in San Francisco on Feb. 24, and at the book launch of Aida Salazar's The Moon Within at the Oakland Public Library's Dimond Branch on Feb. 26.

Volume
KQED Live
Live Stream
Log In ToPledge-Free Stream
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
Live Stream information currently unavailable.
Share
LATEST NEWSCAST
KQED
NPR
KQED Live

Live Stream

Live Stream information currently unavailable.