Isabel Quintero

Whizzing past a tortilleria, and the carniceria. Saying hello to the neighborhood librarian. Flying by murals that tell the community's history. Enjoying a syrupy sweet raspado. Visiting with the painters and drywallers at her dad's construction site. 

These are just a handful of scenes young Daisy Ramona, the narrator of the picture book "My Papi Has a Motorcycle," enjoys most on her daily rides through her community with her beloved father.

The book is the latest by award-winning author Isabel Quintero, and reflects experiences from her own childhood. She's visiting Tucson from California this week for a couple events on the University of Arizona campus and a storytime for kids at Galeria Mitotera in South Tucson on Saturday. 

"It's a love letter to my dad, it's just a fun memory riding on the back of my dad's motorcycle with him," says Quintero who grew up in Corona, California, once known as the Lemon Capital of the World and home to many immigrant workers and families from around the world who worked the citrus groves. 

Much like Daisy's papi who works as a carpenter, Quintero's real dad, a native of Sinaloa, Mexico, is a hard-worker who has made a life by working with his hands — first by assembling RVs and later as a cabinet installer. 

"There's a lot of things that I'm honoring in the book and one of the things is people who work with their hands, people who work building, laying down concrete for homes for us to live in, people who build the cities we live in who are overlooked," Quintero says. "They don't have streets named after them, they don't have buildings named after them, but they're the ones who built the buildings, and the roads we drive on."

The book is Quintero's fifth. Her other titles include the acclaimed YA novel, "Gabi, A Girl in Pieces" which won the William C. Morris Debut Award from the American Library Association, the two-book (so far) middle-grade series "Ugly Cat & Pablo," and the graphic biography "Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide." 

"A lot of my work is about relationships and love, not only romantic love, but familial love and friendship love and what does it meant to be in those types of relationships and how we function in the world," Quintero says.  

Her books also reflect the culture and experiences of Latinx youth, stories that were noticeably absent from the shelves of the elementary school library she worked in years ago. 

"There weren't many options for brown kids or black kids to see themselves in literature in the library," she says. "We mostly served a black and brown community but the library didn't reflect that."

The problem wasn't that those books didn't exist, it was that they weren't being put on shelves of libraries or in the hands of kids, she says. 

Now, she receives emails from students studying "Gabi, a Girl in Pieces" in their classes, or hears from younger readers about how the imagery from "My Papi Has a Motorcycle" feels so familiar because it reflects the people and places in their own communities.


#ThisIsTucson in your inbox

cactus love

Sign up to our weekly newsletter and never miss out on things happening in Tucson

Weekend Planner: This Tucson Newsletter


If you go

What: Storytime and Q&A with author Isabel Quintero

When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Where: Galeria Mitotera, 1802 S. Fourth Ave. 

Cost: Free. Books in both English and Spanish will be available for purchase. 

More info: Go here