For nearly 30 years, The Story of Ruby Bridges has been a children’s literature staple — but one for English readers only. Now, thanks to a group of Susquehanna University students led by Mirta Suquet, assistant professor of Spanish studies, Spanish speakers will be able to read about the little girl who was the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in the South.
Suquet’s class, Spanish for Heritage Speakers, translated the book at the behest of Scholastic Corporation. As the first to translate Robert Coles’ children’s book, Suquet’s class receives credit for their translation inside the book’s cover.
Suquet described the translation of The Story of Ruby Bridges as a learning process, beginning with learning about Ruby Bridges using Spanish resources. Then, they workshopped the book as a class, debating which Spanish words would best suit the original English text. The class had to decide whether to use Standard Spanish, or to embrace colloquialisms — a move they ultimately decided against. They also had to transform punctuation to convey the original emotional tone of the story.
“I think the most challenging part about translating anything is the aspect of losing the message because certain words don’t translate directly,” says Yasira Tejeda ’23, a Spanish studies major from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “Being an Afro Latina, bringing this story to Spanish Americans is very important and has made me really proud of myself. This project has taught me that even when things seem small, they can have a very big impact.”
One of the ways Suquet uses translation is to introduce her students to the opportunities available to them in language studies.
“Some students may be interested in creative writing but they don’t see themselves creating in Spanish,” she says. “Translation is a good opportunity to spark interest in that. If you are creating — whether you are writing something original or translating someone else’s words — you find yourself connected to language in a more emotional way.”
Suquet plans to translate additional Scholastic titles in the future.