Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Author Interview & Giveaway

Welcome to another day of the Gringolandia blog tour. Today I have an interview with the author, Lyn Miller-Lachman, plus another giveaway of a signed copy!

What was your inspiration for Gringolandia?

In the 1980s I taught English to refugees and students from Central and South America. Through them and through friends who had fled the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, I organized concerts of Chilean musicians whose songs protested the lack of freedom and human rights in their country. Many were living in exile, banned by the dictatorship from returning. Others, still in Chile, were forced to perform and to sell their recordings in secret while struggling to make a living in other ways and enduring the constant threat of arrest or death. I was moved by the heroism of these talented artists, and some of their stories were heartbreaking.

One of the musicians was imprisoned and tortured after the military takeover in 1973, then expelled from Chile and separated from his young children, who remained behind with his ex-wife. Twelve years later, his son, then 18 years old, came to live with him. On tour through the United States, they stayed at my house for several days. Seeing them together gave me the idea for writing a novel about a son and a father separated for many years and then reunited after experiences that had so dramatically changed them both.

What is MultiCultural Review?

MultiCultural Review is a magazine that publishes articles and book and media reviews on aspects of racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity in the United States and around the world. It comes out four times a year, and most of its readers are teachers, librarians, university professors and students, authors, and editors. The magazine started in 1992, and I became editor-in-chief beginning in 1995.

In addition to our feature articles, we review more than 120 books per issue-books for children, teens, and adults. All areas of the world are covered, and we even review books about the LGBTQ experience and persons with disabilities. In fact, an article that won a major award several years ago evaluated children's books with main characters that are deaf.

What do you hope people will carry with them after reading Gringolandia?

Gringolandia is more than the story of one country at one particular moment. It's about a young boy who witnesses something terrible happen to his father, and when he sees his father five years later, he has changed into one kind of person and his father into someone else. Daniel, wants nothing more than an ordinary life that is stable and secure-a life in the United States, where he has begun the process of getting his citizenship. Once his father, Marcelo, is released from prison and rejoins his family in the United States, Daniel realizes he cannot escape his past-it's part of who he is and the people he loves.

Much as we try to avoid it, all of us are vulnerable to forces that are larger than we are. Those who were affected by the September 11, 2001 attacks, by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and by the economy today already know this. You try to survive, protect the people you love, and seek a place where you can feel secure and where you and your activities are valued. These are human desires whether we live in the United States, Chile, or anywhere else.

Once we acknowledge our common humanity, we can begin to grasp why torture is fundamentally wrong. It's the most inhuman thing that one person can inflict on another person, even worse than murder because the victim remains alive to deal with the consequences and the memory of his or her degradation-as does the torturer. Like many people who've been tortured, Marcelo uses alcohol to numb the pain, all the while inflicting more pain on himself, and he perpetuates the cycle of violence on his family-especially on Daniel's sister, Tina, who's the youngest and weakest member.

Finally, I'd like readers to understand how difficult it is to restore a democracy once it has been lost. The Chileans who ended 17 years of dictatorship had to endure great pain and hardship, and possess extraordinary courage. Their mostly nonviolent struggle is one of the inspiring stories of the latter half of the twentieth century, along with the end of apartheid and the fall of communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In May 2008, I did a test reading from Gringolandia at an alternative high school in Troy, N.Y. Afterwards, one of the students, whose older sister had traveled to Chile through her employer, said, “Chile isn't like that today,” to which I responded, “It's because of the heroism and sacrifice of Marcelo, Daniel, and millions of other Chileans who risked their lives to bring democracy back to their country.”

I have read that there will be a companion novel, is that true?

That is correct, and I am completing revisions on it now. The main character is Daniel's younger sister, Tina, who was twelve in Gringolandia and is now sixteen. At age twelve, Tina had a lot of problems but in the next three years seems to have found her place in an alternative school and with her friends there. But when her mother remarries, Tina is uprooted and forced to spend the summer in Chile, a country she hasn't seen since she was eight years old, and with family members who she barely knows. The novel takes place in 1989, the final year of the dictatorship when the country was quite divided and there was a lot of potential for violence, and Tina ends up with a good-looking and charming but very dangerous boyfriend.

Thanks for stopping by once again for the interview!

About the author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the Editor-in-Chief of MultiCultural Review, the author of the award-winning reference book Our Family, Our Friends, Our World: An Annotated Guide to Significant Multicultural Books for Children and Teenagers (1992), the editor of Once Upon a Cuento (2003), a collection of short stories for young readers by Latino authors, and the author of the novel Dirt Cheap (2006), an eco-thriller for adult readers. For Gringolandia, she received a Work-in-Progress Grant from the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.

Here are links to all the past and upcoming blog stops:

Oct 29 Kelsey The Book Scout
Oct 30 Lilibeth ChicaReader
Nov 1 Reggie The Undercover Book Lover (Not Really)
Nov 2 Melanie Melanie's Musings
Nov 3 Mariah A Reader’s Adventure!
Nov 4 Erica The Book Cellar
Nov 5 Erica The Book Cellar
Nov 6 Sarah Sarah’s Random Musings
Nov 9 Faye Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm
Nov 10 Melanie Melanie's Musings
Nov 11 Hope Hope’s Book Shelf

Jo Ann Hernandez at BronzeWord Latino Authors http://authorslatino.com/wordpress organizes YA Book Tours for authors. If you are interested in having a tour or being a blog host contact her at BronzeWord1 AT yahoo DOT com. It was a pleasure working with Jo Ann on this tour. She is always helpful, and a lot of fun to work with! =)

To enter to win a signed copy of Gringolandia:

+1 Comment with a valid email address
+4 for asking the author a question in the comments
+2 for linking to this contest (tell me where)
+1 for being/becoming a follower

This giveaway will end tonight at 11:59 CST, so hurry!

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