Tulane graduate Abigail Isaacoff publishes bilingual children’s book

Megan Roche, Contributing Reporter

“Que Vola, NOLA? What’s up, NOLA” book cover (Courtesy of Abigail Isaacoff)

During her time at Tulane University, 2004 graduate Abigail Isaacoff participated in several creative writing workshops. She said the encouragement from her professors helped her grow as a writer. In February 2021, she published her first children’s book titled “Que Vola, NOLA? What’s up, NOLA?” 

The story follows a Cuban lizard named Ramito who accidentally travels to New Orleans in a suitcase, but he is convinced he is still in Havana because the cities are so similar. Isaacoff said the book’s plot was inspired by events that occurred in her real life.

“[My mom] would come to visit a lot since [my family had] been living [in New Orleans] since 2013. One time she came down and came back to Philly and opened her suitcase and there was an alive lizard in there,” Isaacoff said. “Also, I was dating the guy that illustrated the book, and he was always talking about how New Orleans reminded him of Havana, which is where he is from. We went to Havana in late 2018 together, and I saw that that was right. Just those two things clicked one day in my head.”

Isaacoff said she loved the Spanish language, so she wanted to include it in the narrative. “I’ve always been into Spanish stuff and the Spanish language since I was a teenager,” Isaacoff said. “I took a trip to Costa Rica in between 10th and 11th grade with my high school Spanish club and that just blew my mind and was so great. I loved the people and the culture, and I’ve been into the music and culture since then.”

Initially the story was written in English with Cuban slang, but Pelican Publishing suggested that she tell the story simultaneously in Spanish and English. Before she began translating, Isaacoff discovered a family member who could help her.

Since Isaacoff’s father was an anonymous sperm donor, she said she has found one to two new half siblings a year after connecting with him through 23andMe in 2017. 

“In 2019, right before I got the notice that this book was going to be published, I found out that I have a half-Cuban sister,” Isaacoff said. “When I had to translate into Spanish, I did the best that I could because I’m pretty much bilingual at this point, but my grammar is probably like a six-year-old’s. I don’t sound that funny or great. So I sent it to my half-Cuban sister Jessica, and she made sure everything was tight.”

Isaacoff said she was always interested in becoming an author, and she shared that connection with her family. 

Abigail Isaacoff (Courtesy of Abigail Isaacoff)

“I mean I’ve always been a writer. That’s like my top talent, my top thing,” Isaacoff said. “Writing is in my family. My mother’s twin brother wrote for a lot of sitcoms in the 80s and 90s. A lot of the donor babies are writers as well. Like Jessica, she’s a writer, the newest brother is a writer, everybody’s a writer, so it’s in my blood.”

Isaacoff is currently working on a memoir about her experience as a donor baby.

Link to Purchase “Que Vola, NOLA? What’s up, NOLA?” https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781455625383 

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