My novel is about a young married couple who migrates to the United States in the early 1950s during the first wave of migration from Puerto Rico to Chicago. Throughout the years as I worked on IF I BRING YOU ROSES, I didn’t give much thought as to what I would feel when and if my novel was published, though I knew that I would be deeply grateful to the universe. But I had given thought as to what I aspired to accomplish with my novel. As the daughter of emigrants, who grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, I hoped that by showing the immigrant experience from both the female and male perspectives, my book would help readers without a familiarity or a personal connection to immigrants to have understanding and empathy for the immigrant’s plight.
I hoped that I could successfully depict what it is to be an outsider in a new land, to describe how isolated you feel when you can’t speak the language, to show how disadvantaged you are when you don’t have adequate education and when you aren’t familiar with the unwritten rules that are unique to every country and culture.
My male protagonist comes to America in search of the American Dream only to be disappointed, exploited, and disrespected. He is misunderstood and he misunderstands in turn. He wants what we all want—to work hard and to be rewarded for that work and to have a place to call home. My female protagonist learns a harsh immigrant reality when she is advised not to call attention to an injustice in the factory because it will cost the illegal Mexican workers their livelihoods.
It was important to me to tell this story of immigrants to the United States because it pains me that the issue of immigration is still as contentious today as it ever has been in our country’s history. I don’t know if anything has really changed since I was growing up in the late 1970s.
Deep down maybe every fiction writer dreams of making the world a little bit better with her writing. But, I don’t think my job as a fiction writer is to preach about immigration or any other topic but rather to tell a story I feel compelled to tell as well as I can in the hope of keeping the reader captivated through three hundred plus pages. Still, I can’t help hoping that in a very small way, my novel IF I BRING YOU ROSES will make a difference in the way we think of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, to our country. After all, isn’t the United States comprised of immigrants?
She Writes Sisters: What’s the story you’re compelled to write?