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Sonia  Manzano

Sonia Manzano

"Maria" on Sesame Street & Author

Biography

For over 40 years, Sonia Manzano inspired, educated, and delighted children and families as "Maria" on Sesame Street. Named among the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever” by Latina Magazine, Manzano broke ground as one of the first Hispanic characters on national television. Throughout her career, she has continued to contribute to enriching diversity on television, on the stage, and in the educational realm. A first generation Puerto Rican born on the mainland, Manzano’s tale is one of perseverance and courage as she overcame countless obstacles to become one of the most influential Latinas in television. Read More >

Manzano was raised in the South Bronx, where her involvement in the arts was inspired by teachers who encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. She was accepted there and began her career as an actress. A scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon Univerisity in Pittsburgh, and in her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Within a year, Manzano joined the production of Sesame Street, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series.

After forty-four years she decided to retire from Sesame Street and author books. Her book titles include a The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano and a memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx (Scholastic). Becoming Maria was praised by Kirkus Reviews for its “lyrical and unflinching account of her tough Nuyorican upbringing in the South Bronx,” and calls it a “touching memoir.” “Manzano lovingly details life-changing moments,” with a “stark and heartbreaking contrast to her Sesame Street character.”

She's penned three picture books with Simon and Schuster. Her latest book called A World Together (National Geographic) aims to promote unity by celebrating cultural and generational diversity.

Recently, Scholastic and Manzano partnered to launch two middle-grade novels and two picture books. The first of which is Coming Up Cuban, which will be released summer of 2022. Coming Up Cuban is set in 1959 and follows the lives of four children who each represent different intersections of race and class in Cuba.

Ms. Manzano has created and developed with Fred Rogers Productions an animated children's program for PBS. Alma's Way premiered in Oct 2021.

Sonia Manzano knows a thing or two about determination. Now a twice nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series, Manzano didn’t have a lot of resources as a child growing up in the South Bronx. Immensely talented, Sonia never gave up. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

You Need To Be Flexible: Sonia Manzano's Path to Sesame Street

The Civil Rights Movement in El Barrio

Kids Have Answers Too

Diversity in TV

The Responsibility of Children's TV

Muse

WJCT Cathedral Arts Project

Speech Topics

Multi-Racial Latinos & the Civil Rights Movement

In this presentation based on her book, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, speaker Sonia Manzano explores the impact that the Civil Rights Movement had on the Hispanic community. She examines how growing feelings of self worth in both the African American and Latino communities gave rise to social programs like Head Start and the United Farm Workers, as well as educational TV programs like Sesame Street. Manzano gives her personal take on how the whole movement made Latinos examine racial prejudices in their own groups and sadly, in their own families.

From the South Bronx to Sesame Street: A Story of Inclusion & Belonging

In this presentation based on her new book, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, Manzano shares the personal tale of the struggles she faced coming from a poor Puerto Rican family to eventually becoming one of the most influential Latinas in television. This poignant and inspirational story is told with Manzano’s signature humor and wit, making this a memorable presentation for parents and children alike.

Writing For Children

A television writer as well as a children’s and young adult’s book writer, Manzano faced many challenges writing across all mediums. From writing for Sesame Street and Pulitzer Prize winning show Little Bill to writing the books No Dogs Allowed, a Box Full of Kittens, and the inspirational The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, Manzano shares her experience and insight on how to inspire and excite children through the written word.

Children & Television

Manzano’s over forty years on Sesame Street has afforded her a unique look at how the landscape of children’s television has changed. She will share thoughts from the way children are taught cognitive skills, to the way Latinos are depicted, to how 9/11 has affected children’s educational curriculum on Sesame Street. This informative presentation gives audiences a rare opportunity to learn from one of the most knowledgeable people in children’s television.