“Literature can open up limitless opportunities for Latino children, especially for young girls.”
Merriam-Webster defines the word “hero” as a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities; a person who is greatly admired. Graciela Tiscareño-Sato fits this definition in every respect.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants Arturo and Tina Tiscareño, Tiscareño-Sato was the first person in her family to attend college. She was encouraged by her high-school counselor’s husband, a U.S. Air Force officer, to apply for an Air Force ROTC scholarship. That way, the military would pay for her education first, in exchange for a minimum of four years of service afterward as a military leader.
Tiscareño-Sato was awarded the four-year AFROTC scholarship and attended UC Berkeley as a military cadet. In four and a half years, she completed a degree in environmental design and architecture and the Aerospace Studies program. Commissioned as an officer upon graduation, Tiscareño-Sato embarked on a distinguished military career in the Air Force as a navigator and instructor onboard the KC135R refueling tanker. On her first deployment to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she helped enforce the no-fly zone in southern Iraq after the first Gulf War. At a time when the U.S. military officially excluded women from flying in combat operations, Tiscareño-Sato and her crew earned the prestigious Air Medal for flying dozens of combat sorties refueling fighter jets. Tiscareño-Sato also served with distinction with the NATO battle staff in Italy during the conflict in Bosnia and at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador.
For most people this would be enough — not for her. She’s now an accomplished businesswoman, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, mother of three and advocate for education (especially for Latino children and disabled kids, like her oldest daughter.) She’s published an award-winning book for young adults showcasing Latino entrepreneurs, titled “Latinnovating.” Now, Tiscareño-Sato has fulfilled her life-long dream to become a children’s book author.
Her new book is titled “Good Night Captain Mama/ Buenas Noches Capitán Mamá.” It’s the first of its kind — a bilingual English-Spanish children’s military picture book about why women, including mothers, voluntarily serve in our military. This first book (in a planned series) centers on a young boy in pajamas who, as he passes his mother’s bedroom, sees her in her Air Force flight suit covered with colorful embroidered patches. The child is curious and asks questions about each patch. His mamá’s answers about the symbolism of each patch help him understand what it means to serve and why she and other women do so.
The story was inspired by a real-life bedtime conversation with her son when he was 3, a moment captured on video, by Tiscareño-Sato’s husband, Genro. Reviewing the video, she saw the potential for many things besides the surface story about military women and mothers who serve. She saw the chance to address an area of literature which had not been explored before — bringing to young Latino children positive role models for personal development and the creation of a mentality that they can become someone special — a hero — themselves. More importantly, it offered up the proposition, at a level that young children can understand: that even someone from simple beginnings, a child of immigrants whose first language is not English, a child like Tiscareño-Sato, can find their place as someone extraordinary through commitment to doing their best work, higher education and a willingness to go places far from home … for reasons and commitments close to Tiscareño-Sato’s heart!
(Writer’s notes: Stepping out of my impartial look at this book and its creator, I’d like to mention the following: A portion of all sales of Tiscareño-Sato’s children’s book are shared with Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, or V-WISE, a project at Syracuse University. V-WISE recognizes the leadership, integrity, focus and drive of women veterans and teaches business-savvy skills to turn their ideas or businesses into growth ventures. A portion of the sales is also being donated to the families of Capt. Mark T. “Tyler” Voss, Capt. Victoria A. “Tori” Castro Pinckney, and TSgt. Herman “Tre” Mackey III, who all made the ultimate sacrifice when their KC-135R Stratotanker crashed during a mission in Kyrgyzstan on May 3 of this year. Finally, Tiscareño-Sato welcomes the support of any individuals or companies who would like to sponsor the donation of copies of her book to the many Latino students she speaks to regularly, whose families don’t have the means to purchase copies of the book on their own. (See the book’s website, http://www.captainmama.com, for details).}
This article was originally published on the Being Latino! website (http://www.beinglatino.us/cultura).