Juliana Anthony Hernández and Elena Gaona saw something was broken, so they decided to fix it.
For years Anthony Hernández and Gaona, both 48, realized that there were not enough books with stories that represented Latino children. So in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, they worked on their dream of opening their own publishing house.
Now, in 2022, meet La Joya Press, a new children’s book publishing house seeks to promote multicultural stories. It became a reality thanks to the partnership of two Latina friends and mothers: bilingual teacher Anthony Hernández and former reporter Gaona.
Their first book: “Entre Amigos (Between Friends).” Written by Anthony Hernández and Gaona, with illustrations by Mexican artist Ely Ely, the book explores healthy friendships, which the authors believe are core to children’s joy and well-being.
“I always thought that one day I would write books — lots of books — that could tell the stories of our culture,” said Anthony Hernández, a La Jolla resident and veteran public-school teacher.
Gaona — who has been a reporter for several media outlets over the years, including The San Diego Union-Tribune from 2003 to 2007, and later worked with nonprofit organizations — agreed that she grew up looking for diverse stories.
“When I was little, I wanted to see books with characters who looked like me,” said Gaona, who lives in Washington, D.C. “Now there are many more books for children of all cultures. But when I see children’s TV, movies and popular book series, there’s still so much to tell, so much farther to go. As a mother, I want to offer that to my daughters and other children.”
The book, released on June 15, shows examples of what good friendships are. The text in the book is written in both English and Spanish. The idea is that children can learn new words in both languages, the authors said.
One of the plans is for this book to be the first in a series of three: “Entre Amigos (Between Friends),” “Entre Familia (Between Family)” and “Entre Comunidad (Between Community),” Anthony said.
“I see it as a project for teachers and parents to have something to read to their students or children at home,” she said.
With La Joya Press, which means “jewel” in Spanish, Anthony Hernández and Gaona want to provide opportunities for authors and illustrators to tell stories that represent all cultures.
Gaona knows how difficult it is: She once wrote a children’s book (“Maya, Princess of Tortillas”) and for years she couldn’t find anyone to publish it. She now plans to do so under the new publishing house she helped found.
“As a reporter myself, we always want to tell the stories that are not being seen … to give a voice to our people and our culture.”
On Sunday, June 19, an event will be held to celebrate the launch of both the book and the new publishing house. The celebration will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Warwick’s in La Jolla (7812 Girard Avenue, La Jolla). The book can be purchased at LaJoyaPress.com.