Pam Munoz Ryan
San Joaquin Valley, CA
San Diego County, CA
Pam Muñoz Ryan was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. Her Mexican grandmother lived around the corner, and her Oklahoman grandmother lived in the nearby town of Lamont. “When I was with one, I often ate enchiladas, rice, and beans. When I was with the other, I ate black-eyed peas, fried okra, and peach cobblers.”
During her childhood, she spent many days riding her bike to a small branch library to fill her bike basket with books. “Those stories took me away, temporarily, from tallness, big feet, hot weather in the summer, and the bitter cold foggy days of winter. I could escape from little sisters and a passel of younger cousins to retreat to worlds unknown. Books filled my imagination with possibilities and allowed me to ‘try on’ many lives different from my own.”
After college, Pam became a bilingual teacher and then quit her job in education to raise her own children. Eventually, she went back to school for her master’s degree. That’s when a professor encouraged her to write. That’s all it took for a seed to be planted.
“When a friend asked me to help her write a book for adults, I didn’t hesitate. One thing led to another. I began writing children’s book manuscripts. And I started the slow, tedious, yet exciting journey to become something I’d never been before.”
“Part of the appeal of writing is similar to the enchantment of reading. They are both quests. Except when I write, I’m the creator and choose the path. I can be as strong as Charlotte in Riding Freedom, as adventurous as Amelia and Eleanor in Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, and as determined as Marian Anderson in When Marian Sang. I can begin as one type of character and evolve into another, like Esperanza in Esperanza Rising and Naomi in Becoming Naomi León. Or, I can sort out the issues of life by way of the unexpected journeys I take with my characters, as I did with Maya in Paint the Wind.”
Today, Pam Muñoz Ryan is a full-time writer and lives with her husband in north San Diego County near the Pacific Ocean. Her four grown children and their assorted entourages frequently come and go. Two dogs, Buddy and Sammie, keep her company while she works.
Watch a video interview with Pam Muñoz Ryan.