Pam Muñoz Ryan writes stories that often feature strong female protagonists. In this exclusive video interview with Reading Rockets, Pam Muñoz Ryan discusses her stories and winning the 2000 Pura Belpré Medal for Esperanza Rising.
From picture books to novels to nonfiction, Pam Muñoz Ryan writes a wide variety of books for young readers. Drawing from her diverse cultural background, Muñoz Ryan often writes about the Latino experience in the United States. Many of her books feature courageous female protagonists who defy the societal conventions of their time. When Marian Sang is a beautifully illustrated picture book that chronicles the life of African American singer Marian Anderson. Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride recreates the night that Amelia Earhart took Eleanor Roosevelt for a flight over Washington, D.C. And Esperanza Rising is an award-winning novel that Muñoz Ryan based on her own grandmother's immigration from Mexico to California.
Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1951. With half of her family from Mexico and the other half from Oklahoma, Muñoz Ryan jokes that she grew up eating enchiladas one weekend and fried chicken the next. She was the oldest of 23 grandchildren on her mother's side.
Pam Muñoz Ryan studied child development at San Diego State University before working as a bilingual Head Start teacher, full-time mom, and early childhood program administrator. After earning a graduate degree in education, Muñoz Ryan began her new career as a writer. At first, she wrote books about child development for adults. Soon though, she started writing books for children. After publishing a number of picture books, Muñoz Ryan discovered that she was a talented novelist as well. Esperanza Rising, perhaps her most well known novel, won the Pura Belprí Medal in 2000.
Today Pam Muñoz Ryan writes full time and lives with her husband just north of San Diego.