Thursday, May 15, 2008

Interview with Tony Robles

Tony Robles was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. By today’s standards he was born to fail: Hispanic, living in poverty, abandoned by his father, his mother a high school dropout, crime-ridden neighborhoods, tough, segregated high school – and no affirmative action to help him out. But, Tony’s mother didn’t raise him to be a victim. She taught him that the keys to rising above poverty are education and hard work. Tony has lived the American Dream as his mother promised. He wishes she had survived to see his book, Joey Gonzalez, Great American. She would have loved it.

1. Why write this book?

The affirmative action mentality in America is poisoning the minds of black and Hispanic children, making them believe they need special preferences and cannot succeed on their own. My book, Joey Gonzalez, Great American gives parents a tool for combating that destructive mindset. The story encourages ethnic pride and self reliance, showing kids they have the potential to be great because they have the greatness of their ancestors inside them.

2. What was your favorite part of writing this book?

Working with Jimmy Pryor, the illustrator was the most enjoyable part of putting this book together. The process became a true collaboration. Jimmy suggested that I add text about the Buffalo Soldiers and he painted a beautiful portrait to illustrate it. We worked as a team deciding which parts of the story to illustrate. Jimmy is a great guy, a talented artist and a true professional. We have developed a strong friendship and we hope to work together on future projects.

3. What was most difficult?

Ironically the most enjoyable part was also the most challenging. Jimmy Pryor has always painted with oil and acrylic. For Joey Gonzalez, the publisher wanted watercolors. Jimmy learned to use watercolor by trial and error. It took a long time. When we came up against the deadline, Jimmy didn’t sleep for five days. I didn’t sleep much either. But it was all worth it. Jimmy’s skill, technique, and years of work with oil and acrylics resulted in beautifully detailed watercolors.

4. What is the one thing you’d like folks to know about this book or your work?

This book is my heart. Read it and you feel my passion. Jimmy Pryor put his own passion into the book through his collaboration and his artwork. We believe the message needs to get out to our kids. We believe Joey Gonzalez, Great American will resonate among the vast majority of black and Hispanic people who are frustrated by a prejudiced mentality that presumes they (and their children) are inherently inferior. This book is one they will enjoy reading to their children. As they read how Joey and his black schoolmates courageously proclaim their ethnic pride and self reliance, they may feel a little knot in the throat. That will be the passion coming through.

5. What’s next for you?

Right now my job is to get Joey Gonzalez to as many kids as possible.

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