Happy Friday! This week’s Famous Friday article is about author Matt de la Peña. De la Peña was born in Southern California, his father is Hispanic while his mother is Caucasian. Matt has mentioned multiple times that he had racial confusion as a child. While de la Peña is of Hispanic descent, he looks very Caucasian. De la Peña said that sometimes he felt guilty for not looking as Hispanic as some of his relatives. De la Peña’s struggle with his ethnic background has led to multiple works on racial adversity.
Growing up in San Diego, de la Peña became passionate about sports, specifically basketball. In an interview, de la Peña said that basketball also helped him to discover how the world worked. He expressed that he often played basketball right across from a homeless shelter, where players would share stories about their life experiences. After graduating high school, Matt continued both his academic and athletic endeavors at the University of Pacific on an athletic scholarship. He continued to play basketball throughout his time at Pacific and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. He then went on to attend graduate school at San Diego State University, where he earned his Master of Fine Arts Degree.
Turning his passion for writing into a career, de la Peña started to write books catered toward young adult audiences. His works have appeared in mainstream sources such as the New York Times, NPR, and various literary journals. Combining his love of basketball into his writing, de la Peña came out with his first work Ball Don’t Lie in 2006. The book tells the story of a foster child name Sticky, whose only way to success is through basketball. Sticky must surmount a unique set of obstacles to obtain his goal of getting out of the struggle. The book was a hit and was Named a 2006 ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA-YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. A few years later, Ball Don’t Lie was turned into a film starring celebrities such as Ludacris and Nick Cannon. De la Peña continued to write books with athletic themes to catch the eyes of children and to make reading enjoyable. In 2008, de la Peña came out with Mexican Whiteboy, the story of a young pitcher who struggles with his ethnic background among other things. De la Peña is arguable most known for his 2016 book titled Last Stop on Market Street. The picture book has received multiple awards and even the Newbery Medal, making de la Peña the first Hispanic person to ever receive the award. Currently, de la Peña lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he teaches creative writing.
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