Newsmaker: Jesús Trejo

Comedian and author on family, bilingual representation, and book bans

February 19, 2024

Jesús Trejo

Jesús Trejo often has a full plate—literally and figuratively—when it comes to his career. The comedian and author is the host and executive producer of First We Feast’s Tacos Con Todo web series, where he bites into California’s taco scene alongside other comedians. He acts and writes for the Hulu’s This Fool. Last summer, he published his first children’s book, Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock (Minerva), which chronicles his childhood days going to work with his father. The title just received a Pura Belpré Honor for its illustrations by Eliza Kinkz.

Its companion book, Mamá’s Magnificent Dancing Plantitas (Minerva), will be released this September.

American Libraries spoke with Trejo after his appearance at the American Library Association’s 2024 LibLearnX conference in Baltimore about his family, what fans can expect from his future work, and book bans.

What role have libraries and librarians played in your life?

I feel like librarians are the original influencers. It’s almost like an algorithm—they know you like this one thing, and they’ll find more books about it. It’s truly special. I almost feel bad for anyone who doesn’t have the opportunity to build a relationship with their local branch and go in and explore the shelves. Libraries have a big place in my heart. Librarians are badasses—they’re the coolest.

What do you make of this current wave of book bans and book challenges?

At its core, we’re dealing with something that goes beyond just banning a book. You’re depriving somebody of the opportunity to see themselves in a book and a story. And sometimes, we just want to see somebody who looks like us. Also, it goes back to education: knowing a story outside of what’s familiar to us, that’s important, too.

What was your reaction when you found out  Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock would be released in both English and Spanish?

It was really cool. [My editor, Maria Russo] understood how the story needed to be presented and to have both versions be released at the same time—that was important. I hope I’m able to do that with every book, from here on out. I read the English version to my parents, and then my fiancée read the Spanish version to my parents, and that was special. It’s important for it to be in Spanish for them to understand this story, too.

What can readers expect from your second book, Mamá’s Magnificent Dancing Plantitas?

The second book is dedicated to my mother, who is not with us anymore. It’s dedicated to her love, her passion for plants, and the love that she had for me. It’s a heartwarming story between mother and son. There’s the idea that sometimes you have to break things to be able to go to “a bigger pot to grow,” as my mom told it to me. It made me feel seen and understood and loved. I think the story is going to resonate with a lot of people. I can’t wait for people to check it out.

What do you hope young readers take away from your books?

I hope the reader can look at the main character of my books, which is me as a kid, and see my parents, and look at these characters as extensions of their own family. Maybe the main character is a sibling you never had. This character has responsibilities. Sometimes, you’re born into a certain situation, but you play the hand that you’re dealt, and you can do it with comedy—laughing about it, with a good attitude.

You’ve written books about your parents. Who’s next?

My imaginary friend. [Laughs] I saw him recently. It’d be a tip of the hat to all the other only children out there and the imaginary friends that they have as kids. It’d be a tip of the hat to your best friend growing up. Or my favorite food. I’d write a book about pan dulce, muffins, or cupcakes.


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