About Emma Otheguy
Emma Otheguy is the author of the middle-grade novel Silver Meadows Summer and the award-winning picture books Martí's Song for Freedom and A Sled for Gabo. She coauthored The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Madre de Aguas of Cuba with Adam Gidwitz, and her most recent publication is her contribution to the new Carmen Sandiego universe, Secrets of the Silver Lion.
About Sofia Acosta Makes A Scene
It’s a good thing Sofía Acosta loves dreaming up costumes, because otherwise, she’s a ballet disaster—unlike her parents, who danced under prima ballerina Alicia Alonso before immigrating to the suburbs of New York. Luckily, when the Acostas host their dancer friends from Cuba for a special performance with the American Ballet Theatre, Sofía learns there’s more than dance holding her family together. Between swapping stories about Cuba, sharing holiday celebrations, and Sofía learning more about costume design, the Acostas have never been more of a team.
Then Sofía finds out about the dancers’ secret plans to defect to the United States and makes a serious mistake—she confides in her best friend, only to discover that Tricia doesn't want “outsiders” moving to their community. Now Sofía wonders what the other neighbors in her tight-knit suburban town really think of immigrant families like hers. Sofía doesn’t want to make a scene, but if she doesn’t speak up, how will she figure out if her family really belongs?
An Interview with Emma Otheguy
Q: Hi Emma. Thanks for chatting with Scribblitt. We love Sofia Makes A Scene because it tackles the very difficult topic of immigration for kids. Can you tell us why you wanted to tell this story?
I chose this topic to:
-Share my family’s story and my experience as a child of immigrants
-Explain the racism in the history of our immigration policies in a way that children could understand
-Highlight the privileges Cubans experienced historically that are not available to Latin immigrants today
Q: Is this story at all autobiographical, celebrating being Latina while pointing out the difficult parts of being an immigrant family?
A: Very much so. While my parents were (sadly) not famous ballet dancers, the culture of the Acosta family is drawn straight from my own, particularly all the visitors that the Acosta’s host. I borrowed the last name Acosta from my great-grandmother!
Q: The title gives away the fact that Sofia will make a scene. Did you always know what the scene would be about? Which came first: story or title?
A: The story came first, but now I can’t imagine another title. It perfectly captures what’s holding Sofía back from speaking up about immigration and housing issues (she doesn’t want everyone to think she’s making a scene) and her love of costume and set design (she makes a scene in the theater sense).
Q: It probably wasn’t difficult to create Sofia as a character who embodied traits you valued, but was it difficult to create her friend, Tricia? Why?
A: Tricia was the most difficult character to write, and many conversations with my editor revolved around her. Like Sofía, Tricia is Latina, but she has a very different worldview from Sofía. She’s not especially concerned about policies that help or hurt immigrants and their children. That’s tough for Sofía to realize, but she learns to proudly speak up in support of those groups in spite of Tricia.
Q: What is your favorite scene in the book and why?
A: Any scene where the Acostas are all together. Writing those scenes was like throwing open my front door and revisiting my childhood home all at once!
Q: What is the main message you want the reader to remember from Sofia Acosta Makes A Scene?
A: I hope readers learn what Sofía learns, which is best described in Sofía’s own words: “Tricia is allowed to disagree with me. But no one is allowed to stop me from saying what I believe.”
Q: We love Sofia as an advocate for letting young voices be heard – that is why Scribblitt was created, so kids could share their stories and realize their words matter. What is your advice to young writers?
A: Writing matters. When you write, people pay attention. If you’re stuck as a writer, ask yourself what it is you really want to say—what you would say if you had the spotlight or the mic. When you know exactly what it is you want people to pay attention to, you’ll know what to write.