Author, illustrator visits as part of celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month

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San Joaquin Delta College’s Office of Student Equity and Diversity & the Cultural Awareness Program invited author and illustrator Maceo Montoya to speak to students on Oct. 11, about the artwork and books that inspires him and how he hopes to encourage students to write about their own stories and experiences. 

Montoya has had a heavy impact on the Hispanic community with his writing and art work. National Hispanic Heritage Month started on Sept. 15, and continues until Oct. 15.

Montoya, a California native, grew up in the town of Elmira and is a professor in UC Davis’ Chicana/Chicano Studies Department. Montoya is not the only author or artist in his family.

“My parents have been the biggest influence in my life. My father, Malaquias Montoya, got his start as a muralist and political poster maker during the Chicano Movement in the 1960s. My mother Lezlie is also an artist, and the two of them together showed me the art isn’t something that one creates in a studio, but that it is a fundamental part of life,” said Montoya.

His late brother Andrés Montoya also won the American Book Award in 2000 for his poetry collection. 

Montoya’s first novel, “The Scoundrel and the Optimist” was awarded the International Latino Book Award for Best First Book in 2011. He was also on the Latino Stories Top Ten New Latino Writers to Watch list.

“I grew up not too far away from Stockton, and I feel that stories about these kinds of places are often ignored. I want to write my home and community into literature because otherwise who will? Aspiring artists and writers should always feel that responsibility. If you’re not documenting the stories that are important to you then they will be lost,” said Montoya.

Montoya’s novels and artwork are influenced by his community and childhood. He wants the stories he experienced growing up to be shared with everyone, so they are not forgotten.

“I get to share the stories that are important not only to me, but also to my family and community. Every single one of us is in a constant process of absorbing imagery, listening to language, and creating narratives,” said Montoya.

In 2002, Montoya graduated from Yale University and received his Masters of Fine Arts in painting from Columbia University in 2006.

“I’d say my greatest aspiration as an artist and writer is to inspire others to do the same. I want people to leave my talk thinking about the poetry they’ll write or the images they’ll paint,” said Montoya.