Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Laura Lacamara

Posted on: September 24, 2014

LauraLacamaraCuban-born Laura Lacámara is the award-winning author and illustrator of Dalia’s Wondrous Hair / El cabello maravilloso de Dalia, a bilingual picture book about a girl who transforms her unruly hair into a vibrant garden. Bonus features include a guide to creating a butterfly garden, as well as a bilingual glossary of select plant and animal species native to the island of Cuba. I’ll review this picture book tomorrow. Save the date: September 25!

Lacámara earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting at California State University. After studying printmaking at Self Help Graphics in Los Angeles, she began exhibiting and selling her work.

When a fellow artist suggested Lacámara’s images would be ideal for picture books, she signed up for a children’s book illustration class at Otis College of Art and Design. Lacámara instantly fell in love with both writing and illustrating for children, with the result that she drafted her first book Floating on Mama’s Song, which was inspired by her mother who was an opera singer.

Since that publication, Lacámara has become a popular presenter at schools, book festivals, and conferences. She lives in Southern California with her husband, their daughter, and a lovable mutt.


ALLISON: You grew up in Puerto Rico. What could you see and hear outside your bedroom window?

LAURA: I lived in Puerto Rico for one year, from ages 5 to 6 years old. I remember hearing the neighbor’s noisy rooster every morning and seeing lots of leafy green trees and plants from my window.

ALLISON: In school, you disliked attending an ELL class. Why? What encouragement might you offer to students today in the same situation?

LAURA: The thing I objected to about ELL (or ESL) was the isolation I felt because I was singled out of my class and removed for part of the day. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. I don’t know what I would tell students who are in the same situation today. Kids hate to feel different, it’s a universal theme. Obviously, I survived it (so they can, too!), and I’m glad I learned English, of course!

ALLISON: In a guest post for Mami Talks your wrote, “Only now, instead of boxes and furniture, I put up invisible barriers, blocking out anything cynical or negative from coming my way. I need to protect the part of me that feels hope–because that’s the place I create from. And, that’s the place where I want to live.” What is most negative experience you’d had? How did you overcome it?

LAURA: The negative experiences I’ve had are too numerous to name, but luckily, so are the positive and inspiring ones!

ALLISON: You wrote a book inspired by your mother. What is your most special memory you of her?

LAURA:My mother and I are still very close–in fact, our relationship is better than ever. I do remember that as a child my mother took me with her to see a ballet once, and that was very special for me. I’ve never forgotten it.

ALLISON:In your twenties, whenever you struggled with art, you turned to your dad who knew how to draw anything. What is your most special memory of him?

LAURA: When I was a child, I loved going to my dad’s office and sit at his grown up drafting table and draw and make little books. He would let me use his professional art supplies. For a break, we would walk down to the corner store together and get a Pepsi.


ALLISON:You once feared never being able to do any art on your own. What fears do you have when you first started to write books?

LAURA: My big fear, after the first book that I wrote came out (Floating on Mama’s Song), was that I wouldn’t have any other stories worth telling and that I would turn out to be a “one trick pony.” It took a few years to prove to myself that I had more stories in me, and that the first book wasn’t just a fluke!

ALLISON: What inspired the idea for your Dalia’s Wonderful Hair? Do you actually like to garden?

LAURA: The idea for Dalia’s Wondrous Hair was inspired by my childhood experience of being the only Latina girl in the 2nd grade class that I attended in white-suburban Los Angeles in the late 1960’s. I kid you not, all the other girls had blond or light hair, and mine was dark brown. It was bad enough that I barely spoke English, and that I brought different food in my lunch than the other kids. Back then, I just wanted to look like everyone else and fit in. That’s what gave me the idea for writing the story about Dalia–a girl whose hair is completely different from everyone else’s. You’ll have to read the book to find out just what is so Wondrous about Dalia’s hair!

I love nature, and I love gardening, in theory, but I don’t actually do it. Right now I’m still too busy growing a child (my daughter Annalisa, who just turned 10), to try and keep any plants alive!

ALLISON:Your book includes the bonus feature of a bilingual glossary of select plant and animal species native to the island of Cuba. What is your favorite Cuban plant? Animal?

LAURA: I don’t have a favorite Cuban plant or animal necessarily… I love tropical anything and my favorite animal of all time is the domesticated dog. I usually show a picture of my little dog, Gigi, at the end of my slide presentations at the schools I visit. The kids eat it up!

ALLISON: One guest post that you write talks about your wanting to include your Latino identity in what you write. What is one unique part of being Latino?

LAURA: I’m hot and passionate, of course… just kidding! That’s what everyone expects a Latina woman to be. Well, OK, so it’s not that far off the mark. I’m excitable and can get fired up about things easily. But, I can also be calm and introverted – I enjoy spending time alone.

ALLISON: How do you think that schools should become more multicultural?

LAURA: Inviting more authors and illustrators like me to present bilingual books would be a great start!


2 Responses to "Interview with Laura Lacamara"

Another interesting and enlightening interview, Allison. Thanks for including the video, which provides a perfect conclusion to the interview.

I love how Laura concluded the video! She talked about how being different is a good not bad thing. Being different is what made her an artist. I myself have taken until my adulthood to realize that my differences are what make me a creative person. Accepting oneself is I think an important but difficult feat. 🙂

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