UC Merced Professor Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez recently won a 2015 International Latino Book Award for “With a Book in Their Hands: Chicano/a Readers and Readerships,” which beat six other finalists in the category of Best Latino Focused Nonfiction Book.
The book stems from research done after Martín-Rodríguez’s 2003 text “Life in Search of Readers,” in which he suggested that Chicano/a literature has been shaped as much by its readers as it has by its authors.
In a quest to collect hard evidence behind this idea, Martín-Rodríguez developed the Chicano/a Literature Intertextual Database (CLID), which includes more than 40,000 entries detailing the connection of Chicano/a books to other literary traditions; the Chicano/a Readers Oral Project (CROP), a collection of interviews with people of Mexican origin recounting their experiences with reading and print culture; and the Chicano/a Private Library Index to catalog and analyze private and family book collections.
“With a Book in Their Hands” pulls from the oral project by including interviews from UC Merced graduates and undergraduates. It also uses the Chicano/a Private Library Index to dedicate an entire chapter to the family library of New Mexico Territory Governor Miguel A. Otero.
According to Martín-Rodríguez, the book was intended not only to hold academic significance, but also to act as an empowering text for Chicano/a readers in public libraries, community centers and reading groups.
“Awards like this not only validate the research and hard work that is behind the winning entry, but also the relevance of the book for a broad readership,” he said.
The inspiring personal accounts of reading and literature acquisition in the book resonated with many readers, some of whom reached out to Martín-Rodríguez directly. “They were so moved by the book that they had to write their own stories, which they enclosed in their correspondence,” he said.
Martín-Rodríguez’s research continues to focus on Chicano/a literary history. He recently published his third book about Gaspar de Villagrá, the first American literary author. He is also preparing books on three Mexican-American poets from the mid-20th century and has a co-edited book in production on Chicano writer John Rechy.