When a major publisher taps you on the shoulder, that’s a big step for an author. When a school district adopts your books as recommended reading, that’s big too. But when kids start asking for your books by name, you’re onto something.
Xavier Garza, a schoolteacher and artist, is the mind behind the popular Lucha Libre books, which capture the part-sport, part-art form that is Mexican wrestling. His latest in the series, “Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club,” came out earlier this month.
Garza says he’s been a lucha libre fan since he was a kid. He remembers seeing a lucha libre film with his dad at the drive-in.
“The whole idea of a superhero in a mask – that’s really what it is to me,” he says. “They wear the masks, the capes, the tights. They look like superheros and super-villians come to life. And they have bigger-than-life stories in their movies and when they’re wrestling in the ring.”
The wrestlers gain fame as the “living embodiment” of their characters but they can still have normal lives.
“After it’s all said and done, they go to the dressing room, take off the mask, change into street clothes and walk out,” he says. “They have that secret identity.”
Garza says lucha libre is a “poor man’s theater.” The good guys and bad guys follow plot lines like any superhero story. The cover for his most recent book lines up the fighters like they would be in a movie poster for the Justice League or the Avengers.
“They want to be part of a group that shares their interests,” he says, “and in this case, the Lucha Libre club.”
Garza’s books are all bilingual, in part to help Spanish-speaking kids learn English and get excited about reading.
“A lot of kids when they’re recent immigrants, when they first arrive, they don’t know English,” Garza says. “For a lot of kids, this is their out, this is their ladder to go to a higher place – a higher rung, if you will.”
Post by Hannah McBride.