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AMAE Congratulates Member Denis O’Leary on Prestigious Gold Medal Award!


Local educator wins Gold Medal in International Latino Book Awards

     Oxnard, California educator and longtime Oxnard School Board Member, Denis O’Leary has won the Gold Medal in the International Latino Book Awards.  His book “Esteban’s Caravan” won the top prize in the category of Best Young Adult Fiction Book in a virtual ceremony broadcast on October 16, 2021.

     Esteban’s Caravan (published by Floricanto Press) is the compelling story of a ten-year-old boy with his family in their journey to find security in the United States. Seeking asylum in a nation of immigrants, Esteban travels from his damaged paradise of Guatemala hoping for a better life only to be separated from his loved ones. Twenty years later, Esteban returns to tell a child’s story of hope, tragedy and triumph to a Senatorial committee in Washington DC. The reflection rises above the dark policy of separating children from their parents who legally present themselves to the United States under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. Factual events are presented in Esteban’s Caravan as seen by the innocent children who went from a hope of peace to an American cage and beyond.

     The book can be purchased on Amazon and many on line independent book stores.

     “I wrote this story at the height of the shameful policy of separating children from their parents to punish legitimate asylum seekers coming to the United States.  A community activist and fifth grade teacher at the time in the immigrant community of the Rio School District, I knew that the children were being used as fodder in the immigration boarder policy were victims who would be scared for life.” Denis O’Leary dedicated the award to the “Children and families who seek legal asylum in a country of immigrants.”

     “Youth and young adults know what is happening around them.  Those political movements who call themselves a Cancel Culture victim are unduly blocking the study of history and current events in our nation’s schools.”  O’Leary continues, “In this light, I have decided that I will own the right-wing offense that they describe as “Critical Race Theory.”  O’Leary adds, “Opinions of history should never eclipse the study of history itself.”

     O’Leary has written twelve books, ranging from one adult novel to children’s books about leaders such as Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Gabriela Mistral.  Other subjects have been about Dreamers, fieldworkers and Popol Vuh. 

    The 2021 Winners of the 23rd Annual International Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. The Awards celebrates books in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Finalists are from across the USA, Puerto Rico, and 19 other countries.

    The Awards are produced by Empowering Latino Futures, a nonprofit organization co-founded in 1997 by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler.


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