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Local author Donna Barba Higuera borrowed from her own story for Newbery-winning book

Donna Barba Higuera wears denim overalls, a white blouse and a red-orange sweater. Her hair is in a bun atop her head.
Donna Barba Higuera
A drawing of a woman's face -- half in orange, half in royal blue -- with the words The Last Cuentista
Courtesy of the author
The cover of Donna Barba Higuera's book "The Last Cuentista"

You might have heard about a local writer winning one of the biggest awards in literature: the Newbery Medal for young adult fiction. Donna Barba Higuera, 52, lives in Issaquah, practices optometry in Bellevue and recently won the Newbery Medal for “The Last Cuentista.”

Listen above, and read some excerpts below:

On the main character in the book: “This character in some ways is me. It's a girl whose parents wanted her to go into science, which I did. But she really wanted to be a storyteller.”

On being mixed race: “There were also times where I always felt like … I was never going to be white enough. But I also wondered if I was ever going to be Mexican enough, and that was a hard place to be. And so the character in this book is that kid.”

On starting writing later in life: "I don't know that I intended for it to be a career. I was writing because I love writing, and it doesn't feel like a hobby per se, but it's an outlet for me. … I never thought I would have published works."

Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond hosts a meet and greet with Donna Barba Higuera on Friday, March 4, starting at 6 p.m. Seattle Public Library will also livestream the event. Learn more here.

Lilly Ana Fowler covers social justice issues investigating inequality with an emphasis on labor and immigration. Story tips can be sent to