International Book Discussion unites students across border for 11th year

Celia Perez is pictured Skyping with the children and talking about her book, "The First Rule of Punk," during the 2020 International Book Discussion.

EDINBURG — The public library here will be teaching students from both sides of the Rio Grande that they have more in common with each other than they think, despite the distance and border.

Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes

The Dustin M. Sekula Memorial Library will be hosting its 11th annual International Book Discussion on Friday, when more than 50 students from Edinburg and Reynosa will get together virtually for a reading of the mystery book “Me, Frida and the Secret of the Peacock Ring,” by Angela Cervantes.

The middle-school level book centers on the power of heritage, art and family. The book follows the adventures of Paloma Marquez through Mexico City in search of famed artist Frida Kahlo’s ring. The young girl who grew up in America hopes that being in the city her deceased father was born, it will help her remember more about him.

Letty Leija, Sekula’s director of library and cultural arts, said the book was selected for this year’s event because it provides a channel for American and Mexican students to relate to one another.

“Students participating in this event are from the Valley and from Reynosa, Mexico. Both students from here and across the border have many things in common, including the opportunity to live in a borderland community that is often bicultural and biliterate,” she wrote. “… This book will give them the opportunity to learn more about Mexican culture and art, the main character Paloma is a young lady who they could relate to as she makes new friends and learns the Spanish language.”

Students are pictured during the 2020 International Book Discussion at the Edinburg Conference Center participating in a game.

Students — 24 from the Rio Grande Valley, 33 from Reynosa —  will get on a Zoom call at 9 a.m. Friday for the reading. The South Texas Literacy Coalition donated copies of the novel for the students participating. Afterwards, they will have the opportunity to discuss the book with one another and partake in activities.

The book’s author, Cervantes, will also be available for a Q&A session with the kids.

This will be the first time the event will be hosted virtually. It usually takes place at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. In 2020, students met, made friendship bracelets together and watched folklorico performances.

“This year due to Covid-19, we are unable to host this event in person, however the Library staff has been very creative and has been working on interactive activities to connect all the students and provide a valuable experience,” Leija wrote.

Whether students meet through a video call or in person, she said that at the heart of the event is the goal of getting students from both countries to learn more about each other and build friendships.

“We would like for students to value and take pride in their heritage and own family history,” Leija wrote. “As well as for the students to establish friendships with students from a different culture as they learn that even though they may be from different countries they may have more similarities than they do differences.  We also want them to learn the importance of respect for each other’s culture.”