The First Rule of Punk by: Celia C. Pérez,

The First Rule of Punk by: Celia C. Pérez,

by Celia C. Perez
Published by Penguin Young Readers, Random House Books for Young Readers Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult
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From debut author and longtime zine-maker Celia C. Pérez, The First Rule of Punk is a wry and heartfelt exploration of friendship, finding your place, and learning to rock out like no one’s watching.

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school—you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malú (María Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malú loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malú finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself! 

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

 MMR: Who is your inspiration behind Malu?

CCP: The inspiration for Malú was probably more of a what than a who. It came from a number of places, but most significantly from thinking about representation in children’s books. Not just representation of Latinos in general, but also of representations within Latino kid lit, and the stories we see or don’t see. I was interested in writing about a character who has that universal struggle of figuring out who she is but within the context of being biracial and also with the added twist of being a misfit punky kid. I wanted to write about how we form not just identity, but what we embrace as culture. I was listening to and episode of NPR’s Code Switch podcast recently and one of their guests was Professor Clayborne Carson from Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Institute He said: “Culture is both a return to an imagined past, and it’s also a revolutionary act of creating a culture that fits your needs for the future.” And that totally hit on what I’d been thinking about with this book and this character who struggles to basically create her own culture that is made up of these elements she initially doesn’t see as fitting together–her love of punk music and her Mexican heritage. 

MMR: Who were your role models growing up?

CCP: My mom was definitely a role model although I probably didn’t appreciate how much she struggled and sacrificed until I was older. Which is typical, right? I also looked up to my older sister who had the misfortune of being an oldest daughter in an old fashioned immigrant family. She was the one who got the brunt of all that entailed–like having to drag her younger sister everywhere as her chaperone! I also had a lot of teachers growing up who I really looked up to, especially my English / Language Arts and my social studies teachers in high school. They encouraged me to see a future for myself that no one else really did, and I am forever grateful for that.

MMR: How important is it to you that we promote Diversity in Kid Lit?

CCP: I didn’t see a story that closely resembled my own in a book until I was in college, and I grew up a hardcore reader. I think it’s unfortunate that in this day and age we are still having to talk about promoting diversity in kid lit (and in anything) as if we’re doing people of color, people who are differently abled, or people who identify as something other than straight or male or female a favor by allowing them room at the table. When you see diverse authors and books with characters who are diverse being promoted you have to remember that this is still not the norm. This is obvious when you take a look at the numbers that come out of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center ( every year. You have to look at the full picture and it is still out of balance. And the sad reality is that it’s a disservice to all children, not just the ones who don’t see themselves in books, to not have a body of literature that is inclusive and representative of the diversity of our world. Sometimes it’s hard to envision what you don’t see. And it’s hard to have empathy for others or to understand how similar we all are when you aren’t exposed to anything but what’s in your immediate insular world. I believe there is room for all of our stories. But it’s also necessary for there to be room for inclusion of diverse experiences and backgrounds in publishing and librarianship too, not just in writing and illustrating. I hope the fact that people can and do and want to talk about it and are looking for ways to make change means we’re on our way. Then again, just because we appear to be on our way doesn’t mean it’s time to let up on the work.

MMR: Where did the idea of this book come from?

CCP: The idea for the book came from my desire to see something I thought was missing. Punk, as I see it, is a way of thinking that encourages people to create, and especially to create what they want to see but doesn’t exist. Growing up, I would have loved to have read a book about a brown kid struggling with all these pressures of identity, but in addition to the cultural element, of being an outsider. I’m also really intrigued by how different the experience of being Latino is depending on where you’re from, how you were raised, what your interests are, and so on. My experience as a U.S.-born child of immigrants is completely different from my son’s as a third generation, half white (non-Latino) Latino. I wanted to try to capture some of that variety of experience by having all these characters who are Latinos, but who come at it differently. Ultimately that’s what Malú needs to see–that there is no one way to be Latino (or to be anything, really)

MMR: What are you working on now?

CCP: I’m currently working on my next middle grade novel which I won’t reveal much about at this point other than to say it takes place in my hometown of Miami. If you’d told me years ago that I would one day write a book set in Miami I would have thought you were nuts.

When the ARC of this book arrived in my mail box this past summer, I fell in love with the cover. The cover alone made me stop what I was reading at the time and dive in. I was thrilled to find out it was about a Mexican girl.

I adored this book. My 12 year old self could totally relate to Malu. I grew up in a Texas border town not being a fluent Spanish speaker and my loves were much like Malu’s, very eclectic. What I loved about Malu isn’t afraid to be who she is. Her struggles and triumphs were so real to me! I was cheering for her the whole way through. 

I love Malu! She is sassy & spunky & so, so cool! The First Rule of Punk is an ode to those who march to the beat of their own drum.

There was not one single thing I didn’t love about this story. 

Celia! Next year when we get you to the RGV for Border Book Bash,  I will introduce you to the BEST CONCHA IN THE WORLD!!

Celia C. Pérez has been making zines inspired by punk and her love of writing for longer than some of you have been alive. Her favorite zine supplies are a long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and watercolor pencils. She still listens to punk music, and she’ll never stop picking cilantro out of her food at restaurants. Originally from Miami, Florida, Celia lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. She owns two sets of worry dolls because you can never have too many. The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers.







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