Associate Professor of World Languages and Cultures Astrid Billat recently published two books: “Un Coquí Nunca Deja de Cantar,” a children’s book, and “El Niño Que No Decía Mamá,” a memoir.
“Un Coquí Nunca Deja de Cantar,” or “A Coquí Never Stops Singing,” is a story about a singing tree frog (a coquí) named Churí and his family. From the perspective of the family of coquíes, a symbol of Puerto Rico, comes a story of loss, perseverance, and optimism after surviving Hurricane María.
Through her involvement in the group Boricuas en North Carolina (Puerto Rican in NC), Billat had the opportunity to perform the story as part of a children’s activity where she dressed up as a coquí. “Since it was so successful and people liked it so much, I decided to find an illustrator and publish the story,” she said.
The book provides an opportunity for children to learn more about the coquí and its symbolic importance to Puerto Rican culture, and it also provides insight on the tragic impact Hurricane María had on the island in 2017.
“Un Coquí Nunca Deja de Cantar” is available for purchase on Amazon.
In contrast to her children’s book, Billat also published a memoir this year titled “El Niño Que No Decía Mamá,” or “The Boy Who Would Not Say ‘Mama.’”
In this nonfiction piece, Billat shares personal accounts of her experience raising a child with autism.
“I share the most vulnerable and intimate moments of our family, but also the great life lessons that I learned,” she said.
Billat knew her son, Santiago, was different when he was just eight months old. “He did not laugh like his brother, he did not answer to his name, and he did not play with the other children,” she said.
Once Santiago received a diagnosis of autism, Billat said the next four years were a roller coaster of emotions, which she describes in her book. She also talks about Santiago’s experience in the Meredith Autism Program.
“My son is now 14 years old and although he still struggles in some ways, he is doing amazingly well,” she said. “Ever since he finished his therapies, I’ve wanted to write a memoir sharing the ups and downs of this journey.”
Billat’s hope for the memoir is not only to inform but also to inspire. “It is my wish that the life lessons I learned these past years can help parents in some way,” she said.
“I hope readers learn more about autism, or if they are a parent with a child on the autism spectrum, they will identify with some of the struggles and feelings I express in my memoir.”
Most importantly, Billat hopes to offer help and guidance to parents and family members who are “a part of the world of autism.”
The Spanish edition of “El Niño Que No Decía Mamá” is available for purchase on Amazon, with an English translation coming soon.