Thursday, January 14, 2010

René Has Two Last Names: An Interview with the Author Rene Colaito Lainez

A Latina of Puerto Rican descent, I follow the tradition of using two surnames (my fathers last name, then my mothers last name). I feel both surnames are important because they are a part of who I am, my culture and My Story.
With that said, I think it was serendipitous that I was asked to be a part of the René Has Two Last Names virtual book tour, hosted by BronzeWord.

René –cha- Colato –cha- Laínez –cha has written an endearing children's book that I had the pleasure to read over the Holidays. I must confess, I am in love with this story. 

As a former elementary school teacher and as a lover of culture and heritage, this book is a breath of fresh air. As soon as I read it, I started telling my friends about it and showing it to my family.  When you read it, you will too.  

René Has Two Last Names / René Tiene Dos Apellidos tells the story of a young boy who wants to maintain his identity and keep both last names... Serendipity indeed! 

I recently interviewed the award-winning author of this delightful book, and I invite you to get to know René Colato Laínez:

  • What is the first story you remember? How old were you?  My kindergarten teacher was a great storyteller. She told the fairytales using puppets and music. After school, I always ran home and told the stories to my parents. I really enjoyed retelling the story of “Los tres cerditos” (The Three Little Pigs).
  • Having come to the United States as a teenager, did you have a similar experience to that of little René? If so, were the children as accepting in your experience as they are in the story?  Yes, both of my René books are autobiographical. I was in shock when I discovered that here in the United States my name could be a girl’s name (I am René, the Boy) and when I found out that I could use only my father’s last name (René Has Two Last Names).  At first children made fun of my name and last names but after listening to my stories, they realized how important my entire name was for me. They became my friends and we always had fun together.
  • In René Has Two Last Names the character René creates a family tree for his class, have you set about the task of researching your genealogy? If so, what did you find?  My great grand uncle was a popular author in El Salvador. He published a book about his genealogy, Los Laínez de la Soledad (The Lainez from Soledad). I was a child when I read the book and I was intrigued to know about my great great great grandparents from my mother’s side who lived in the 1800’s in a town called Soledad. As an adult, I had searched about my others relatives too. At the Ellis Island, I found the records of four Colato’s who emigrated from Italy and three Laínez who came from Spain. René Has Two Last Names is dedicated to all my last names in my family tree.
  • The tradition of carrying the mother's surname is lost by many of Latin descent living in the United States. Do you consider this tradition a tribute to ones mother, ones heritage, a combination of both, or something different altogether?  Having two last names is not only a tribute to mothers but also to all the relatives from the mother’s side including grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and other extended relatives.  Having two last names is like having a big party where every family member can celebrate, break the piñata and eat a piece of the yummy cake. Everyone is invited!
  • The story describes the loss of the sound of the "güiros, maracas and drums," that accompanies René's name. Does the music come from the pairing of both last names, the pronunciation, or something else?
  • Telling my entire name sounds like dancing cha cha cha. The cha cha cha has three chas just like my name. René –cha- Colato –cha- Laínez –cha. Cha cha chá! But having only one last name, there is no rhythm. It is like dancing cha cha cha without music.
  • In the story, the other children say that René has a "long dinosaur name." Do you think that children will understand or appreciate the concept of keeping with tradition, regardless of whether it seems antiquated?  Yes, kids like to learn about the different cultures around the world. At first a tradition or cutom from a culture may seem odd but after they learn about it, they accept and appreciate it. Our world has so many cultures, languages and beautiful places. We must share it with our children to have “the whole world in our hands.”
  • The character of René mentions eating a "pupusa" and drinking "horchata." For many readers this is a whole other world of culinary delight. Do you introduce people to Latin food in your everyday life?  Latin food is delicious! You can find a variety of food from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Horchata is a popular rice/milk drink from Latin America. Pupusas is a main dish in Salvadoran cuisine. You can find the recipes in my website or . Look under “For Teachers”.
  • What has been the greatest challenge you have faced as a writer?  Trying to find a publisher for my stories was a challenge but I did not give up. I kept submitting my work until I heard, “I want to publish your manuscript.”
  • Have you written or do you plan to write a book for adults?  I have ideas for middle and young adults novels. I plan to work on them in the future. During high school and my college years, I wrote several adult novels. They are in their first drafts, and I could work on them, too!
  •  When you look back thirty years from now, what is the one thing you hope to have accomplished with your writing?  In 30 years from now, I hope that my readers, children from all ages - 1- 101, had learned and discovered through my books new Latino rhythms, flavors, traditions and adventures, cha cha cha!

    After my interview with the author I found that his attitude is as playful and as positive as the character in his autobiographical children's book, René Has Two Last Names/René Tiene Dos Apellidos. 
    A writer who embraces his heritage and culture, he has opened the door for children to explore more about traditions, culture, and heritage. It also teaches them that it's ok to embrace who they are... even if they're "different."
    I look forward to reading more from René Colato Laínez...Cha Cha Cha!

    I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I am an "Associate," which means I am compensated for referrals to products.  The opinions in this post are mine and have not been influenced by any sort of compensation.


    1. I thought that it was interesting to think that the idea of taking the name of the mother is not only a tribute to one's mother but also to the entire family, it was also interesting to hear of your family tree, always fun to look into one's genealogy

    2. What I thought was so great about this book was that it shared the story from a Latino perspective that is not normally heard... a Salvadorian child. I was curious if there is pressure as a writer of American children's books to create stories from the perspective of more "well known" Latin countries. For example, as you were trying to get published, did you ever hear that your book could be more marketable if the child were from Mexico? My mother is from El Salvador, and I immediately wanted to read this book and share it with my family because it will connect with my niece and nephews on a more personal level. I am grateful for your voice in bilingual children's literature and thank you for keeping true to who you are and where you come from in the context of the book.

    3. interesting interview, I would like to know does the author speak other languages besides english and spanish? what are his thoughts on bilingualism for young children? Thanks.


    4. Hi Lisann, for this wonderful post and Bonnie, great question. Alicia glad you could make it. One thing we didn't take into account is that Rene is a teacher and he is probably teaching right now and will be here to answer questions as soon as school lets out. ha ha Funny que no The author has to wait for school to be let out to come play with us.

      We hope that you join us for the entire book tour as there will be more subjects to talk about. Thank you all for your support and enthusaism.
      Jo Ann Hernandez
      BronzeWord Latino Book Tours

      If anyone is interesting in hosting authors like Rene, please visit our website and learn more.

    5. Tom,
      on another day please visit Leslie at where Rene wrote a whole article on bilingual education and how difficult it is to transalate chidren's book because of the rhyming and the underneath intent of the word that does not translate well. It is very interesting. I don't have the permlink and i can get if you wish and send it to you. Thanks

      Jo Ann

    6. congratulations, Rene Colato Lainez -- cha cha cha!! I've had the pleasure of hearing you read your books! Lovely to hear you and to read them as well! Can't wait to read them to my grandkids. Gracias, bloghost and interviewer, too. Great interview!! Abrzos, Lucha

    7. I can't wait to read this book and read it to my children. There is so much beauty in cultures that out not our own that we would know nothing about if writers like you did not share it! Thank you. It also sounds to me like a beautiful custom to honor the maternal side of the family as well. And I will never think of names the same way again! I love the concept of the rhythm of a name. I have not though of it that way but it is so true. I was considering giving my 4th child, due in June both my maiden name and my husbands. It is all the more appealing to me now.

    8. I think this is a great idea for a book. My niece just moved to Florida, she is only 6 years old, and I am going to get her a copy. I have always treasured my parents last names. When I got married I kept my last name. I had a lot of problems using my mom's last name because the government agencies would have my dad's last name as my middle name and my mom's as last name but I still treasure it and use it back home (Puerto Rico).

    9. Hola,

      Thanks for the great comments about my book.

      Latin America is a big territory and editors are looking for stories from all the corners of the America's. Most of my books are about salvadorean children. And I am writing more books about our Latino children.

      I speak English and Spanish and I use both languagues in my bilingual classroom in California.
      Being bilingual is great because you have two worlds of culture, languages and traditions.


      Rene Colato Lainez

    10. How interesting that he compares his name to a dance, cha cha cha.