My novel, with the working title First, Bless the Stove, portrays the struggles of three young people fighting to decide their futures against the landscape of pre-Revolutionary Mexico in 1910. Lucho, fifteen, carries the scars of his activist-miner father’s death, and seeks to escape a legacy of prejudice as seemingly immutable as the color of his skin and his constant hunger. Sixteen-year-old Francisco yearns for freedom from an over-bearing father who has one eye on his own reputation as the town magistrate, and one hand on the cactus switch he uses to regularly beat Francisco and his two other sons. Francisco’s thirteen-year-old sister Cecilia, as the emotional and spiritual center of the narrative, longs for opportunities to experience life even while she is chained to the kitchen by an unhappy mother with her own history to reconcile.
Filled with actual events and real historical figures, the book brings to life the smoldering social conditions of pre-Revolutionary Mexico, including inequalities and prejudices that continue to challenge Mexico even today. But the story doesn’t neglect the rich tapestry of Mexican and Indian beliefs, sayings, food rituals, and spiritual practices. My depictions are informed equally by my grandmother’s stories and recipes, and my own experiences living in Mexico, where I witnessed firsthand the complicated and artistic culture that has always defined that amazing country.