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Isabel Schon D.E.P. (19 January 1940 — 2 March 2010)

25 March 2011

Dr. Isabel Schon, who died earlier this month, was an under-acknowledged, but much appreciated collaborator with both the Mex Files and with Editorial Mazatlán… and all of us who try to share Mexican culture with the rest of the planet.

As a child growing up in Mexico City “Clabe” Schon’s life-long dedication to literature and books started with weekly trips to the library.  After attending UNAM, she received a bachelors degree from the University of Minnesota, a Masters of Education from the University of Illinois and her doctorate from the University of Colorado.  During her career at California State University at San Marcos, she established the Barahona Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents, and, after her retirement in 2009, was the founder of the Isabel Schon International Center for Spanish Books for Youth.

Dr. Schon was internationally recognized as THE expert on children’s and young adult literature in Spanish (and in English about Latin American themes), receiving numerous accolades and awards for her work from library associations, language teachers and others.

I had some correspondence with Dr. Schon last year.  That she personally had selected Gods, Gachupines and Gringos for the collection being put together at the San Diego Public Library.  Unfortunately,  like other public institutions in California, the budget had been cut to nothing.  Fortunately, Dr. Schon was a charming woman, and and a pursuasive, pugnacious advocate for Latin American studies.  Of course, Gods, Gachupines and Gringos, as well as Ray Acosta’s Revolutionary Days: A Chronology of the Mexican Revolution were donated to the Schon International Center.

It is not that either of these two books are “children’s literature” or even necessarily for young adults.  The Schon Center collects and reviews Spanish-language books for children and adolescents as well as noteworthy books in English about Latino/a people and culture. Schon Center reviews appear in respected journals. Only recommended titles are added to the Center’s collection and become part of the searchable database accessible through the San Diego Public Library’s Web site at

Isabel Schon’s dedicated her life to educating those outside her native Mexico on the culture and people she left for a life in the United States, and there are too few public institutions that carry out this important task, made all the more imperative now, with both cuts in public funding for public institutions, and with a growing mound of misinformation about Latin America and Mexico (and Hispanics).  The Isabel Schon International Center isn’t going to change the world, but — simply by existing — it makes available to anyone and everyone a world they should know exists, and perhaps inspire a few young readers to a life they would never know had Dr. Schon not taken up the task she did.




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