Lupita Aquino is a Cinical Research Professional and a voracious bibliophile who lives in Maryland with her wife and baby. Lupita is a prominent presence in the Washington, D.C. book scene where she co-founded Lit on H St at Solid State Books. For those of us living outside the D.C. metro area, Lupita documents all of her reading (and her badass weekend runs!) on her bookstagram account, @lupita.reads.
Way back in 2015 when bookstagram was just a microscopic corner of the internet, Lupita was one of the first readers I followed. I've been smitten with her honest reviews and passionate recommendations for years now, and I honestly can't imagine my reading life without her. One of the things I love most about Lupita's book takes is that when she loves a book, she throws herself into being its evangelist. Lupita's taken such wonderful books as Good Talk, The Lost Children Archive, and Sabrina & Corina under her wing, making sure each ends up in the hands of the right readers.
I was fascinated to learn more about how Lupita developed her passion for books, which involved navigating reading and living in and between two languages. I was also thrilled to learn she's one of the rare readers who loved her required reading! Read on to find out what Lupita loved about reading for school and what she's reading now.
Tell us about your current reading life. What types of books do you enjoy and where do you have conversations about books?
Last year I read around 90 books but I think this year I'll end up having read perhaps 60 or 70. I typically enjoy reading literary fiction and love discussing books on bookstagram or at a book club I lead IRL at a local DC indie bookstore.
As a teacher, I’m always curious about how people fell in love with reading. For you, was it in the classroom, or outside it?
I fell in love with reading outside of the classroom. The classroom was actually a very difficult place for me to navigate growing up. I was often thrown into smaller well-known groups of children that needed extra help and that always made me feel like I wasn't a good student. But what I didn't realize at the time was that I was part of those groups because I went from speaking only Spanish at home to speaking English, a language my parents weren't familiar with at the time, at school. Navigating those two worlds and languages at the same time with no one to help me dominate the English language more quickly at home was hard. That made it hard for me to fall in love with anything inside of the classroom because I always felt I was behind. My Mother was the one that first introduced me to reading through old National Geographics she'd bring home from homes she would clean. Her encouragement continued throughout the years as she learned English and would often read books with me. I am 100% positive that she is and will continue to be the reason I love reading so much.
How did you figure out your personal taste in books?
This is a great question I haven't given much thought! It was definitely a collection of ALL! As an adult, I have read so many different genres through friend recommendations so I'd have to say that I have definitely learned what I don't like vs. what I do like through friend recommendations. I only remember one specific teacher playing a roll in helping me figure out my tastes in books. I discovered books my Father enjoyed when I was much older and he would share the titles with me and my Mother would read what I would read!
Did you do your required reading in high school? How about reading outside your requirements?
YES! I loved required reading! I read Brave New World and The Things They Carried - as required reading in high school and loved them so much. In high school, I signed up for a Spanish Literature class for native speakers and it was my absolute favorite memory of high school. During the summer I would go to the library and look for books by authors we read in class. My other favorite thing would be to pick books based on covers. I would do that all the time.
Did you have a teacher in your life who helped you learn something new about yourself as a reader or appreciate books in a new way?
I'd have to say my Spanish Lit for native speakers teacher definitely taught me that it was possible for me to love literature in my native language! This was huge for me because I spent so much time focusing on forgetting it to fit in and I never thought I could read entire books in Spanish let alone explore them critically as we did in our English Literature class. I'll forever be grateful to him! Funny thing is that Spanish was his second language, he was white and he had a terrible accent but I think that helped me feel more comfortable speaking up in class. Knowing that I wasn't the only one that would miss or butcher entire words in Spanish.
What is one book you LOVED reading in high school?
SO MANY GREAT ONES but I think I am going to stick with one single short story that has stuck with me - Axolotl by Julio Cortázar. I first read it in Spanish and have since re-read it multiple times during my life in English and again in Spanish. The story is so short yet complex that it's hard to say what exactly made me fall in love with it. Similar to the protagonist of the story, I have slowly become obsessed with it without really knowing why.
What is one book you HATED reading in high school?
I really think I'll have to pass on this question! There wasn't one book I read that I hated in high school. Though there was one book I found difficult because of language comprehension: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. It is written in an almost medieval form of Spanish so reading it and having to discuss it in class always made me nervous. I wasn't sure I understood what I was reading!
What is one book you would love to see introduced in classrooms now? In your opinion, why is this book important for teenagers to read?
Can I send you a list? Haha! It is so hard to pick just one book! But for me I wish I had Elizabeth Acevedo growing up - The Poet X and With the Fire on High - both such amazing books about what it's like to be a Latinx kid navigating two cultures.
What is one additional piece of advice you would give teachers to help their students enjoy their reading more?
Offer a variety of diverse voices. Don't push it, talk about it, tell them what struck YOU about the book. Don't try to force a connection between a teen and a book about their culture. Let them come to the book on their own by having it available to them.
What are you reading now?
I am reading Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat, The World Doesn't Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentio and Las Cosas que Permidos en el Fuego by Mariana Enriquez.
Shop books mentioned in this post:
- Good Talk by Mira Jacob
- The Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
- Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
- National Geographic
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
- "Axolotl" by Julio Cortázar (link to story)
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat
- The World Doesn't Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott
- Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentio
- Las Cosas que Permidos en el Fuego by Mariana Enriquez
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