The Importance Of Telling An Immigrant Story



             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?

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Tags: #fiction, #publishing, #things we care about

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Comment by Marisel Vera on October 18, 2011 at 3:00pm
Thanks for commenting, Shewriters!  I think the first thing a writer needs is desire to tell a particular story and you all have that so you are way ahead of most. We all have different stories and are compelled to share them.  Isn't this the main reason we pick up a book because we are compelled to read someone else's story? So tell your stories and readers like me will read them because we want to enter the world of a Quaker or the difficult journey of an African American woman from the safety of a book.  Enlighten me, entertain me, and show me new worlds.  It can only help me to become a better person. I'm excited to join your journey as a reader of your stories.
Comment by Caroline Bock on October 13, 2011 at 6:40pm
I felt compelled to write LIE -- my debut young adult novel just out from St. Martin's Press, about the aftermath of hate crime against Hispanics in a Long Island, NY community.  Inspired by real events, LIE is told through 10 distinct voices, five teen and five adult, including three Hispanic voices, all new in different ways to Long Island.  I explore racism, prejudice, xenophobia, yes, all in a YA book.  I hope LIE will help make a difference too in how we judge others -- especially those we so quickly judge by the color of their skin --  though this book has very little moralizing.  A terrific co-read for parents and teens as the book covers racism, prejudice, bullying, and the choices we all make to tell the truth, or lie.    Good luck with IF I BRING YOU ROSES!!  It's on my to read list!!!   Check out LIE.
Comment by Linda Gartz on August 21, 2011 at 5:45am

Marisel,

I feel compelled to tell the story of my family in the 20th Century. I have hundreds of family letters, diaries, photos and other documents from the past century, so I can read the actual words and thoughts of family members, starting with my grandparents love letters -- and their bold decision to strike out for America. Their diaries and letters give me an insight into their lives not through the foggy lens of memory, but as they were actually living them. Stories of love, loss, war, death, madness, riots,  and marital strife all take their turns at center stage over the decades. 

Comment by Helen W. Mallon on August 14, 2011 at 10:03am

My desire is to bring a very different world than yours to light.  I come from a longstanding Philadelphia Quaker family, and I'm fascinated by the mix of idealism, liberalism, simple spirituality, along with quiet hypocrisy and the racial and class prejudice that has traditionally been part of it.  It's not unlike what Pamela describes as her goal, but it comes in a very specific cultural package.

 

Your book sounds timely, something really needed now.  Best of luck and hugs!

Comment by Pamela Olson on August 6, 2011 at 10:34am

So many congrats on the publication of your book! I can't wait to read it!

 

I feel compelled to write stories about things -- especially absurd injustices -- that are just sitting around in front of everyone's nose, yet almost nobody seems to notice.  How do you shake people out of their complacency without brow-beating them or shaming them?  We're all human, after all.  Our ignorance and inaction hurts others, but it's almost never our intention.  And nobody wants to be brow-beaten or shamed, especially by someone they don't know.  How do you gently wake people up, working with human nature (I still believe most people are good at heart) instead of struggling against it?

Comment by Joshunda Sanders on August 5, 2011 at 4:36pm

My copy of If I Bring You Roses arrived yesterday and I am psyched :-)

 

I feel compelled to write stories about powerful and unique black women and families. I hope to get on that once I finish my memoir, which is about my personal journey to healing and wholeness after a traumatic childhood. I know so many women of color like me who are quirky but live outside of the normal scripts of what what it means to be an "normal American" which has always made me feel solidarity with other so called outsiders like immigrants of all kinds. Thanks for asking the question. It's something that helps inspire me to keep writing during my low points and it helps to remain clear about what we're called to write.

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