In honor of our seven founders, we get to know one Alpha Chi Omega through seven questions.
Vicky Weber (Upsilon, Millikin University) grew up without seeing characters like her in books. Now, she’s writing her own stories about the Taíno so that today’s children can find characters to relate to and learn more about the culture!
Q: What is your passion in life?
A: I’m a teacher through and through. While I’m a full-time elementary educator by day, I find my love for teaching coming through in my other endeavors, like being an author. All my books are educational and even in the publishing world, I find myself mentoring new authors through the process. There’s a lot to know about the industry but getting successfully published IS attainable if you’re determined. It always helps to find an author mentor or an author community to support you through your journey.
Q: What is your heritage and how has it had an impact on your life?
I’m of Puerto Rican descent and growing up, it was a struggle to find characters that looked like me or reflected my culture or heritage. That’s not the world I want for my daughter. And while representation in children’s literature is on the rise, now isn’t the time to slow down – it’s more important than ever to keep moving forward.
Q: What inspired you to write the Taíno Tales books?
A: Honestly, it was the fact that so many people, adults and children alike, had never heard of the Taíno or the impact they’ve had on today’s language and culture. The Taíno were indigenous people that lived in the Caribbean: the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, the Greater Antilles and Hispaniola.
Some people don’t even realize that they already know some Taíno words! Canoe (canoa), iguana (iwana), hammock (hamaca) and barbeque (barbacoa) are all words derived from the Taíno language. Though many assume the instrument is Spanish in origin, maracas are actually a Taíno invention! Even the term “hurricane” came from “Hurakán” or “Jurakán,” who was the Taíno god of storms – a character you’ll see featured in Taíno Tales: the Legend of Coquí.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from reading your books?
A: I hope that those with Caribbean roots see themselves reflected in the story and those that don’t have those roots learn about and appreciate an Indigenous culture.
Q: What have been some of the highlights from your writing career?
A: Definitely the conversations that happen as a result. I often get pictures, videos and emails from elementary teachers sharing the impact that my books have had on their class and their curriculum. There’s no better feeling!
Q: How has Alpha Chi Omega had an impact on your life?
A: Alpha Chi Omega helped me to believe in myself and empowered me to make my dreams a reality. It pushed me to be a leader in school, in sisterhood, and in my professional and personal life.
Q: What does being a real, strong woman mean to you?
A To me, it means striving to make the world a better place, whenever possible; to believe in yourself and break down barriers, for yourself and for other women; and to always support others because even the smallest actions can have a huge impact on someone else’s life.
To learn more about the Taíno Tales books and to support Vicky’s fundraising for her latest book’s publication, visit her Kickstarter page by August 15.