Students from Blessed Trinity School welcomed award-winning author Christina Diaz Gonzalez last week. After meeting the author of “The Red Umbrella,” the story of a young Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. through Operation Pedro Pan, students were encouraged to follow a dream of their own.
Gonzalez’s visit with the students wasn’t just to discuss their book reading assignment with the seventh- and eighth-grade students. Her time with the students was just as much about her book as it was about her inspiring journey.
Christina Diaz Gonzalez grew up in a Cuban household in a small Southern town in North Florida. Like many of the students, both of her parents are Cuban, so Gonzalez loves the Cuban culture, speaks fluent Spanish. Right before high school Gonzalez would leave the only home she knew. Moving from her small Southern town to the Miami life wasn’t an easy transition, especially for a young girl entering high school.
With many dedicated teachers along her path to keep her reading, Gonzalez would graduate high school and attend the University of Miami, where she would graduate with an accounting degree. She then attended law school at Florida State University, where she certainly did a lot of reading and writing. After practicing law for a few years, her two sons helped her realize her childhood dream of becoming a writer. Reading to them re-awakened her love of books.
Gonzalez admitted to the BTS students that when she was a child one of her favorite forms of reading often was comic books. “Reading is important no matter what you’re reading,” said Gonzalez.
“The Red Umbrella” is a story about love, respect and sacrifice. It ignited many discussions about family, friendships and overcoming challenges. It was a history lesson as the students learned about Operation Pedro Pan, and the impact that 14,000 children coming into the United States had on the nation, the states and the cities where they lived.
“I’ve always loved the idea of writing a story and conveying a message,” said Gonzalez. “Inspiration comes from your family’s unique story. Operation Pedro Pan was the basis for ‘The Red Umbrella.’ I wanted to know what my mother felt like when she was put on that plane. I started asking questions and I started listening. I discovered that my grandmother stood on the top of the roof at the airport with a red umbrella so that my mother could see her as she was leaving on the plane from Cuba to the United States.”
Gonzalez took time to meet the students individually and autograph their personal copies. The book signing was extra-special for seventh-grader Veronica Menendez because her copy of “The Red Umbrella” used to belong to her older brother, Rigo, who met the author during a visit back in 2011.
“I liked the book because my family is from Cuba,” said Veronica Menendez. “It was interesting to find out what happened so long ago. I’m sure my family went through some of the same experiences.”
Gonzalez inspired all who were in attendance, not just the students.
“Life happened and after getting married and having children, which brought me so much happiness, I knew something was missing; it was the excitement of doing what I loved,” Gonzalez said. “My sons pointed that out to me as I watched them read.”
Students from Blessed Trinity School welcomed Christina Diaz Gonzalez, award winning author of The Red Umbrella, the story of a young Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. through Operation Pedro Pan, when she visited the school last week. Gazette Photo/ANGIE AGUILA