The LéaLA book fair is back to promote reading among local Spanish-speakers. The free event takes place May 11-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown L.A., and features numerous acclaimed authors, who will be discussing their books and doing book signings. Created by the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, LéaLA aims to bring attention to literacy as well as cultural and art programs.

Recently, Campus Circle had the opportunity to interview two of the participating authors, Gaby Vargas, a native of Mexico who recently released the book Conéctate (Connect Yourself), and Sergio Ramírez, a Nicaraguan author who wrote La Fugitiva (The Fugitive).
Campus Circle: Discuss the significance of being a part of LéaLA. Personally, what does it mean to you to promote reading in Spanish?                                  
Gaby Vargas: I am emotional for and grateful for the invitation. This is the first time I will be presenting a book in the U.S. To promote reading, regardless of the language, is a duty and pleasure.
Sergio Ramírez: The area of Latin America on the other side of the Rio Grande is very important to me as a writer. There are millions of Spanish-speaking people in the U.S., and a large portion of them are in California, especially in Los Angeles. Our common tie is Spanish, and LéaLA creates a link between books and readers. We need to contribute in order to make this link much stronger.
What else can communities such as Los Angeles do to increase reading, regardless of the language?
GV: Just like any product, the consumer needs seduction and an invitation to meet it. This is why this fair is a great opportunity.
SR: They shouldn't just use the fair as a yearly tool, but also ensure that public libraries [have Spanish-language books and] that books by Latin American authors become part of Spanish programs throughout schools. Reading should not be looked at as an obligation; [programs should focus on] a development of reading for pleasure.
Touch base on your latest work, and tell us some of the things that inspired you in the process of it creating it.
GV: Connect Yourself is the result of a personal search, believing in my internal being and meeting myself a little more. When life sends you strong calls of attention, like that of a death of a beloved one, you notice the need of internal nutrition for strength, which an external world does not give you.
SR: My latest work The Fugitive is based in Costa Rica during the 1930s and 40s. It is about the struggle of a woman in a patriarchal and conservative society...everything ends in failure, but that is the story I wanted to tell regarding the courage of a woman that fights against a closed-minded society.
CC: Do you have a message for young readers who aspire to be future authors?
GV: They need to have self-confidence, while avoiding those inner voices that discourage you. If they beat that resistance, they can succeed in whatever they dream of.
SR: They need to work hard, with strict discipline and solitude. Literature is the result of continuous work - it is a personal choice that has to be defended. And to write, it is necessary to read --read a lot. The best school for writing is the books of others.
CC: What do you do in your free time?
GV: I enjoy reading - that is my daily bread (like we say here). There are days when this is a luxury and in others a necessity. My passion is to learn, which is why I confess that I have had a book in my hands everyday since many years ago.
SR: I am very passionate about movies, music and lectures. And I jog every morning before sitting down in front of the computer... [I also enjoy] talking with friends and spending time with my grandchildren.
For more information on LéaLA, click here.