Author Tags: Women

Emilie Smith-Ayala, now known as Emilie Smith, is a founding member of the Guatemalan music group Ixim W'anima and the Guatemalan Canadian women's group Nuestra Voz.

She was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1963 to American parents and came to B.C. in 1967, attending school in Nelson and Vancouver. She attended UBC, was active in peace groups and lived within the Guatemalan community in exile, mainly in Toronto, after her marriage in 1984 to a former Guatemalan school teacher. Her interviews with Guatemalan women are contained in The Granddaughters of Ixmucane (1991), a superb work of oral history and feminism.

Marisol and the Messenger (1994) illustrated by Sami Suomalainen, is her kids book about a Latin American tiger who flees to North America when her father is killed. "Marisol was written with some very special children in mind, some dear friends, and my own nephew--all young people who lost a parent to violence in Guatemala," says Smith-Ayala.

Having returned to Vancouver, and writing under the name Emilie Smith (following the break-up of her marriage), she has co-authored Viva Zapata (Tradewind, 2009), this time dedicated to children around the world who don't have enough to eat--"like the 50% of children in Guatemala who suffer from chronic malnutrition"--and to all those who work for change. It's a fanciful tale about how Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata vowed to address poverty as a boy after meeting bandits who have stolen his black horse named Sombra. Smith's co-writer is Guatemalan-born Margarita Kenefic Tejada whom she befriended in a Mexican village that was located about one day's horseback ride from Emiliano Zapata's home.

As an Anglican priest working in the Diocese of New Westminster, Emilie Teresa Smith translated the YA novel Victoria (Tradewind 2013) by Argentinian-born Silvana Goldemberg who works as a kingergarten teacher in Richmond, B.C. It's about a Latin American teen who lives on the streets and survives by selling flowers, cleaning cafes and washing car windows.


The Granddaughters of Ixmucane: Guatemalan Women Speak (Women's Press 1991) 0-88961-169-6.

Marisol and the Messenger (Annick, 1994)

Viva Zapata (Tradewind, 2009). Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki, co-written with Margarita Kenefic Tejada. $16.95 978-1-896580-55-5

[BCBW 2013] "Guatemala" "Women"

Victoria (translator)
Article (2013)

“In small and medium Argentine cities,” says Silvana Goldemberg, “everyday there are at least ten kids, teens and mothers knocking your door asking for food. My mom was a teacher of those children and we used to have the door open with a basket full of fruits for these kids to serve by themselves.”

Born (in 1963) and raised in Argentina, Silvana Goldemberg of Richmond has consequently written a realistic, Latin American equivalent to Shaw's Pygmalion, Victoria (Tradewind 2013 $12.95), set in the crime-ridden streets of Paraná in Buenos Aires.

Instead of being saved by a man, fifteen-year-old Victoria must save herself, overcoming grim poverty and rampant violence by eking out a living selling flowers in nightclubs and cleaning cafes—if she's lucky.

“The characters of my book are based on real people,” says Goldemberg, “and I want children in Canada, the US and UK to get to know them. I grew up very close to kids with lives like Victoria’s.”

Victoria is the sole provider for her younger, twin brothers. With determination and the friendship of her cousin who is a pop singer named Betina, Victoria ultimately overcomes the odds and forges a healthy romance with a budding, teenage soccer player, Andrés.

Victoria has been translated by Emilie Smith, also born in 1963 in South America. Smith was working as a minister in New Westminster when she was contacted by publisher Michael Katz to translate Goldemberg’s Spanish text to English. [Photo by Murielle Faifman] 978-1-896580-95-1

- Alan Twigg