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When She's Told Girls Can't Be Superheroes, 'Lucia The Luchadora' Grabs Her Mask


She wears a mask and a cape, and she faces down her detractors bravely on the playground. "Lucia The Luchadora" is the new children's book from Cynthia Leonor Garza where Little Lucia is told girls can't be superheroes. Her response is to feel mad, kind of spicy mad. Cynthia Leonor Garza joins us now from Texas Public Radio in San Antonio. Welcome.

CYNTHIA LEONOR GARZA: Thank you for having me, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So female superheroes are finally all the rage now. I'd like to know what inspired this story, which you obviously wrote well before "Wonder Woman" came out and killed it at the box office.

GARZA: Yeah. Well, Wonder Woman's been around for a long time. But the inspiration from this came, actually, from my young daughter. And she had received a cape for Christmas that my sister-in-law made for her. And it was a Hello Kitty cape. It was very girly, and it had her initial in the back, a K for her name.

So it was right after Christmas that I saw her running around with her cousin, doing these, like, highflying leaps and just plain superhero. And, you know, it just hit me. I have to write a story about a little girl who wants to be a superhero. And, you know, when I started thinking about masks, I immediately thought of lucha libre, which I grew up with. So I made her into a luchadora.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lucha libre is the fantastic professional Mexican wrestling where there are super heroes and villains. And everyone wears, as you mention, these very distinctive masks. Making Lucia a luchadora, though - what was important about that?

GARZA: The mask. I've always been captivated by the mask. I think it was just the perfect vehicle for telling this story of a girl who wants to be a superhero - and trying to hide her identity as a girl because she's told by the boys that girls can't be superheroes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Was it hard getting a book based on Mexican wrestling made?

GARZA: When I was trying to get this book published, I had an interesting conversation with an agent. And one thing that came up was, you know, we really love the book. But I think that there might be too many lucha libre stories out there already.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Because you can only really have one or two (laughter).

GARZA: Exactly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There can be a million Supermans, but not that many luchadoras.

GARZA: That was exactly my response. I was just sort of struck by it, you know, and my response was, well, how many ninja books are out there? How many books about firetrucks? Why can there only be two books about lucha libre on the market? You know, it's these barriers that just sort of throw you for a loop as a writer when you're going out there with your work. So I think if books like this succeed, sometimes, it's in spite of being a bicultural or a bilingual book, not because of it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You recently went on a book tour. Who's showing up at your tours, and what are they saying?

GARZA: I've gotten a mix of folks, you know, kids who like wrestling or girls who are interested in superheroes - a lot of girls, which is great. You know, they're really excited to see a girl superhero. You know, I've also heard little girls when I visited schools tell me that they look like Lucia, that they have this big, poofy, brown hair.

And, you know, I've met a couple of Lucias and signed at least two dozen books for Lucias. So children are paying attention to what is in the picture books that they are reading. So, you know, I think the grown-ups should be paying attention, too. I think publishers should pay attention. They notice these things. And, you know, we should be giving them books where children can see themselves in.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should mention you are married to NPR's East Africa correspondent, Eyder Peralta, and you are now living in Nairobi. Coming from Texas and then D.C., what inspires you about those surroundings, and has it influenced your new writing?

GARZA: It definitely has, yeah. Coming from Texas, I grew up on the border. And it's this wonderful mix of two worlds. I sort of see that now in Kenya. We live in Nairobi, which is a very urban, modern city. And it's, you know, pushed up against this gorgeous natural world where there's just animals. You can go on safaris. And so it's these two worlds that collide also. So I sort of feel like I've gone from one place that had a mix of two worlds to another place.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Cynthia Leonor Garza, thank you so much.

GARZA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.