‘The Elote Man Goes to College’: Local author and illustrators push for diversity in picture books

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — It’s an exciting day at Aspen Meadow Elementary School.

Maia Gonzalez reads the book she wrote, “The Elote Man Goes to College,” to more than 100 charter school students.

This is the story of a traveling merchant named Diego. By selling the popular corn in the Mexican American community, he is able to send his daughter, Marisol, to college.

“I really wanted to shine a light on the people we see in our community, telling these stories of our families, uncles, aunts,” Maia explains.

The story of an entrepreneur and an immigrant family – a story that touches many people in Central California.

Maia’s sister, Chalome Gonzalez, is the book’s illustrator. She gets emotional every time she sees him.

“I just think, ‘Man, this story touches my heart every time.’ and she made other people cry. It’s not just me,” says Chalome.

With their father by their side, the sisters reflect on the sacrifices their parents make to provide a better life for their children.

The attacks on street vendors in Fresno County in 2018 motivated them to create the book.

They hope to help children understand the diversity around them.

Maia mentions, “There’s a big push for more diverse books, especially picture books, but there aren’t so many that belong to our own culture, like the Mexican American culture here.”

A culture that is evident across Fresno, says Mary Nixon, multicultural program coordinator at Aspen Meadows.

“Our school is made up of many different cultures and I think it’s important for the student to learn about the different cultures and realize that we really are similar.”

In addition to a special reading from the author and illustrator, the students lined up for a treat.

They were able to taste Elote, the corn from the book.

A duo of sisters sharing and embracing their culture while realizing the sky is the limit.

“I just want to say I’m older but I never gave up. Even if you think you’re too old to do this, go ahead and do it,” Chalome says.

They’ve already sold 500 copies, and they’re already thinking about their second book.

You can find “The Elote Man Goes to College” in libraries and on sale in downtown Hanford at My Corazon-Libros y Cultura, located at 300 N Irwin St, Hanford, CA 93230.

Once replenished, it will be available on Miicamisa.com.

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Lola R. McClure