Celia Flores here, and Book Fans has now gotten its first spotlight feature on a brand new author. Please welcome Sandra
Lopez and her laterst novel, "Esperanza: A Latina Story"
BF: Hi Sandra.
This was a fun book to read because it reminded me of when I was a pre-teen making the transition into high school, yet at
the same time seemed completely current and I sense it appeals to today's teen readers as a "friend."
Can you tell
a little bit about your own experiences that led to writing this book, as I sensed there are some parallels between your life
and that of the narrator: Esperanza?
SL: There were definitely some parallels between my life and Esperanza's. I was
born in Hawaiian
Gardens, CA, where I lived for the first 20 years of my life. My dad,
who was an alcoholic, left just before I hit Jr. High. I was the oldest, so I was the primary caregiver for my brother and
sister. There were some scenes that were based on actual events, like when Esperanza gets hit in the boobs with a hockey puck.
And, of course, there were other scenes that were entirely fictional.
What led to me writing this story was my desire
to read about a girl just like me. Some books had heroines where the main problem was getting a car for their 16th birthday
or finding a date for the senior prom. Well, most of us didn't have experiences like that. Many Latinas had to grow up in
barrios similar to Esperanza's, and I wanted to get down to the naked truth with it.
is an immediately likeable character and seems to overcome the difficulties in her life with a combination of stubborn determination
and a healthy sense of humor. Was it your goal to create a teen character who was a role model for young Latina women?
SL: Actually, yes, it was. I know it's not easy to be a poor Latina, especially when you've got all these bad influences surrounding
you. That's really what I had to do for myself. I had to overcome an abusive household, an impoverished environment, and relatives
constantly coming in and out of jail. I feel that I surpassed so much by being the first to graduate high school. And I've
moved past it by going to college and receiving my Bachelors Degree. I wanted to show people that it is possible to do something
more for your life. You don't have to succumb to the livelihood of every other Latino. "Esperanza" is not just the name of
the main character, it's the message I wanted to relay to anyone whose had a life like I did. Let Hope be the fire that keeps
you going no matter what.
BF: In many ways, Esperanza's neighborhood--The Gardens--is an important minor character.
How does her environment influence Esperanza, her values and personality, her goals and aspirations?
SL: Well, even
though Hawaiian Gardens
is a small city, it's still a barrio. So there's really no difference between the two cities for Esperanza. A barrio is a
barrio no matter what size. Esperanza was forced to grow up in a poor slum, so it was a natural course for her to want a better
life. She saw what growing up in a cities like East LA did to other people--they dropped
out of school, they ended up in gangs, they wound up pregnant by a no-good bum, and eventually, they just fell off the face
of the earth. Esperanza didn't want to end up like that. She wanted more and she didn't mind working hard for it.
seems both devoted to and afraid of her mother. What accounts for this?
SL: Yes, Esperanza loves and respects her mother,
who has a bit of a temper. Her mother always came down hard on her, especially when it came to her younger siblings, because
she was the oldest--she was suppose to know better. You know what most people say: parents make a lot of the mistakes through
the first born child. A lot of her fear came from being raised in a hostile and abusive household. Somewhere in her psyche,
she feels that if she does something wrong, then she will get punished, which is why she always tries to be the good girl
and the smart student. She never wants to disappoint her mother, she never wants to get her mad because, in the end, she always
ends up yelling at her. And, of course, Esperanza resents her mother for that.
BF: Does her mother's experience
as a battered wife make Esperanza feel
differently toward men than most teenage girls?
SL: Yes, basically, Esperanza
doesn't want to get married because she's afraid of it (this is actually something that gets a little more developed in the
second novel) For a long time, she believes that all men are like her father--drinkers, gamblers, abusers. And she doesn't
want that. So just like to avoid any STD is to not have sex; to avoid any wife-beater is to not get married.
BF: What are
some of your current projects? Are you writing another novel?
SL. Right now, I'm finishing up my second novel entitled
"Beyond the Gardens." It's the sequel to the first book. In this story, Esperanza goes to art school and discovers what she's
made of. She has this wacky roommate who's really into fashion and make up and all that. And, her old friend, Carlos, picks
up where he left off. Things get confusing when she meets someone else though. Then towards the end, she must make a hard
decision: should she leave Los Angeles and her family? This
story incorporated a lot of my experience as an art major and was written more for the college student.
Sandra, for being the first author on our spotlight feature.
us for new and upcoming authors emerging into the world of writing.
"Espeanza: A Latina Story" is available here on Book Fans. Check out our bookstore for availability.
It's also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.