Originally from Lima, Peru, Maritza Oliver is a Vancouver, British Columbia based artist, animal liberationist, children’s book author and illustrator! She recently published a new book A Pig is a Dog is a Kid.
Vist her online at:
Annika: Would you consider the city and region you live in to be vegan friendly?
Maritza: Absolutely! The Vancouver area offers plenty of possibilities for vegans –locals and tourists alike. You can go out for vegan brunch, check out vegan bakeries, shop at a vegan shoe store (the only one in Canada), get lunch at a vegan food truck, eat some raw vegan food, experience a vegan dinner club, visit an animal sanctuary, attend animal rights campaigns and demonstrations, order vegan dim sum or sit down for a fancy vegan dinner!
Annika: When did you first have the idea to write a vegan children’s book?
Maritza: When I first became vegan I realized that being vegan wasn’t enough, so I started doing grassroots activism with local animal rights organizations, but I wasn’t reaching as many people as I wanted. I’ve always done some drawing and painting as a hobby and believed in doing art with a purpose and so thus came the idea of combining my two passions in life –art and veganism- with the main goal of spreading the message of kindness and compassion all over the world. Writing for kids goes very well with who I am and the type of artwork I do. Writing a children’s book that gently explains, in child-appropriate terms, why people choose to live vegan, it’s easier for me, and what better way than accompanying the text with bold, whimsical, and colorful illustrations to depict the plight of animals used for food, clothing, entertainment, etc. , without being too graphic or scary.
Annika: What books have you written and what are the themes of each?
Maritza: I have written and illustrated two children’s books and one adult coloring book. My first book “Milk and Cookie a Little Spooky” was published in 2015 and it depicts the plight of cows and calves on today’s large dairy farms using a factual, scientific framework. It also raises awareness of dairy consumption for the next generation. My second book “A Pig is a Dog is a Kid” will be published in December 2016, and this book shines a light on the disconnection between the animals we call pets and the animals we eat, and raises awareness of the speciesism that is inherent in our perception of animals. My third book is an adult coloring book of vegan hearts with the most famous animal rights quotes.
Annika: With your foundation in art and your lifestyle as an ethical vegan you have found this purpose and vocation with these wonderful children’s books. What did it feel like to put the two passions together when you began working on the book projects?
Maritza: After becoming vegan, combining my passion for art with my love of animal advocacy was one of the best decisions I ever made, and when I finally started making my vision and dream a reality, it really felt like a blessing in my life, as I put my heart and soul on every page I realized I was born to do this! And I cannot imagine doing anything else.
Annika: What is your perspective on the current market of books covering vegan issues for children and outlook for the future growth of such literature?
Maritza: I believe the importance of reaching out to children cannot be overemphasized. Children are more open-minded, inherently compassionate and receptive to new ideas. We need to empower them and give them the right to make their own choices at an early age. Only empowered children can save humanity from the massive ethical crisis we are witnessing today. We are moving into a new era of compassion for all animals. Thanks to social media and global awareness, more and more people are waking up to the truth about animal agriculture and its environmental unsustainability and cruelty. Books by Vegan Children’s Books are going to become more common in the coming years, but myself and a few others are pioneering the vegan children’s book movement.
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on your vegan outlook?
Maritza: Definitely! I wish I’d had the same opportunity my son has right now when I was a kid. Therefore, we mustn’t wait any longer for children to become “adults” or “grow up” and leave it to their “choice”. When we wait we also have to try and undo the process of indoctrination that our society currently promotes. I believe that telling children the truth is much better than lying to them about happy farms with happy animals that want to die to become our food. Children can easily understand that we don’t need to drink cow’s milk because it belongs to a calf, they get it! It makes sense to them.
Annika: Is your children’s school very vegan friendly? How does the school accommodate them as vegans?
Maritza: My son’ school does not offer lunch program. So, I need to pack snacks and lunch with him everyday. They do offer a lunch program with vegetarian options once a week only. When we have the chance to get vegan, we order lunch, if not, he brings food with him.
Annika: What are some of your child’s favorite foods?
Maritza: My son loves everything that has beans in it (burritos, tacos, etc.), lentils, chickpeas soups and stews, veggie fried rice, tofu stir-fry, avocado & cucumber rolls, vegan pizza, pasta dishes, and of course dessert with chocolate!
Annika: Is your child’s pediatrician very vegan friendly? Did they express any specific concerns with your child being vegan?
Maritza: Fortunately, my son’s pediatrician is vegan friendly, although she is not vegan herself, she understands that a vegan child can get all the nutrition he/she needs through a plant-based diet. She did not express any concerns; on the contrary, she is very impressed with how healthy my son is.
Annika: How do you navigate situations like your children attending peer’s birthday parties where there may be predominantly non vegan food?
Maritza: That has been a tough situation. I usually feed him before he goes to a birthday party, so he is not that hungry. Most of his friend’s parents know we are vegans, and so they try to accommodate him the best way possible. He will occasionally eat a piece of non-vegan cake, and I don’t make such a big deal, being vegan is hard enough for a child in this world, and I don’t want him to feel left out all the time around his friends.
Annika: What are some of your favorite foods?
Maritza: Fruit! The first thing I eat in the morning and my favorite snack. I also enjoy salads, soups, casseroles, and stews with lots of vegetables. When I go out I usually eat ethnic, spicy food, the food I don’t know how to cook at home.
Annika: What are your favorite meals to make for your family?
Maritza: Bean tacos, vegan mac & cheese, cauliflower curry, baked potatoes and yams, peanut & tofu stew, pancakes with cashew cream and waffles, tofu scramble and hash brown, and many more!
Annika: What are your favorite restaurants?
Maritza: In Vancouver, my favorite restaurants are Paradise Noodle (Chinese), Lotus Seed (Fusion Chinese), Meet (comfort food), Bandidas (taqueria), and Chad Thai.
Annika: When did you become vegan & why?
Maritza: It wasn’t until July, 31 of 2013 after searching for inspirational speeches on YouTube and coming across “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear” by Gary Yourofsky that my values, ethics, and moral compass were questioned. Gary’s passion and words were crystal clear and his strong message affected me greatly. At the same time I discovered something in me I didn’t know I had –a heart full of compassion. I felt as though I was born again and given a second chance to do something meaningful with my life. On August 1st, 2013, I went vegan cold turkey and never looked back.
This interview is part of an ongoing interview series by Annika Lundkvist with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe. For more interviews and information please visit this page: Interview Series: Vegan Pregnancy, Parenting & Kids.