TEACHER, AUTHOR, EDUblogger "I want to (read and) write books that unblock the traffic jam in everyone's mind." ~J. Updike
Yes it’s possible! In fact there are many new authors out there struggling to get the voices and their stories heard because traditional secular publishers/agents will tell them: Awesome book! If you take the Jesus-stuff out I can work with you.
On the other hand, traditional Christian publishers/agents will tell them: I love this! If you take the time travel/fantasy whatever out, I can work with you!
So, what-to-do, what-to-do? Many eventually give in and self publish. Some quite successfully, in fact. However, one wonders whether more readers could be reached if publishers/agents were willing to take that risk on these exceptional stories.
One such story, that contains the elements listed in the title of this post is, They Call Me Blanca. This YA book meets you at the Cross-road where Faith and Diversity meet Reality and the Supernatural.
Check it out at this link and let me know what you think:
The main character is Michelina DélaCruz. She is a Latina teen living with her single mom in Stockton, California. Stockton is a place you won’t find on any tourist, hot spot list. But you’ll find it on the FBI’s list of top ten most dangerous cities to live in. Michelina gets involved with some wannabe ‘cholas,’ brutally beaten to a pulp, and then left like garbage on the Stockton railroad tracks. She blacks out only to awaken to the sound of what she perceives as her deliverance: a train. All she ever wanted was to fit in somewhere! She gives up. God, no mas! So how did she wake up in the body of her teenage Abuela in 1954? Michelina is shot through space and time to experience life through the eyes of others. Can God save a chola?
Earning a gold medal for the Harper Collins Editors Desk Award this is an excerpt of their review:
“They Call Me Blanca” is the story of a white-Latina teenager named Michelina who endeavours to join a gang of girls in an attempt to establish her identity and finally gain a sense of belonging. Struggling to balance her two heritages, she chooses to undergo the deeply frightening and brutal gang initiation, at the hands of her new ‘friends’. Michelina, teasingly nicknamed as ‘Blanca’ due to her pale skin, is begged by her childhood friends to abandon the gang and join them in their local Christian church group. Ignoring the pleas of her friends and mother, Michelina is seriously injured in her final baptism into gang life and is transported to an out-of-body journey through the lives of her grandparents and parents – learning that violence mars her family at each tier, and that Christianity, Jesus and the real love of those closest to her can bring her peace.
I was drawn into this story from the first sentence. It was tense, and full of intrigue and I have no doubt the opening of this work would grip young adults instantly. The writer builds intensity quickly and strongly, young and old can identify with the feeling of sneaking in to your family home, hoping not to be spotted or questioned …(this is) akin with reading a thriller. Violence is introduced in the first few pages, as the reader learns of Michelina’s injuries, and is spurred on to discover the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of this poor girl’s predicament. This suspense, this interest which the reader follows vehemently, is rewarded with more than they would have bargained for…
This story has a very strong basis – Michelina’s near-death experience takes her on a journey of understanding and appreciation of her roots and her family history. It opens her eyes to the violence which simmers and erupts through generations and brings her closer to God and to those she loves…this book could be a success in the YA genre.”
Here are just a few more of the favorable author reviews this book as garnered:
They Call Me Blanca is one of the best examples of Young Adult fiction you are likely to find… Author Laura A. Diaz presents us with a perfect view of Hispanic culture that many readers are probably unfamiliar with, tells a vivid and gripping story, and ultimately helps to promote a positive message, which is pretty much everything YA should and could do in the right hands.
Michelina DélaCruz is an ideal main character. She’s tough and unapologetic, yet we as readers get to peek behind the curtain and see why she is that way. She’s a very sympathetic and real-seeming person who we instantly care about. When bad things happen to her, we feel it, sometimes painfully.
The plot moves forward from the typical themes of trying to fit in to the supernatural time-traveling part of the story where Michelina really begins to grow as a person. Readers won’t have a chance to get bored. The writing is crisp and literally dripping in culture, to the point that we are often introduced to both English and Spanish descriptions of people and places.
They Call Me Blanca should have no trouble at all finding an audience once published. And it’s a novel that wholly deserves to make it into print. Doing so would help to add credibility to the entire YA genre, and I believe could do a lot of good in the world too.
John Breeden II, Old Number Seven
Christian Critique and Review:
Finally, I have found the time to read this exceptional book. Actually its a WOW book. A book about survival, relationships, sacrifice and restoration. A girl who is not sorry for herself, who understands her neighborhood, her homegirls and the guys they hang out with. Already, we care for the quiet Blanca bruised and beaten in a hospital bed because we see a driven individual with great inner strength—a misfit desperate to fit in. One tough chola, she won’t stay down.
Her mother, a firm advocate for Jesus, is so giving, its hard not to feel her pain. She also has a friend in Pastor Mike. The tone of this book is unique; the reader not only reads the book but hears it spoken. I love the language, natural and distinctive. The Spanish overtones are just perfect the way they are, it couldn’t be written in any other way.
Chapter 2 had me grinning, make-up, fashion—the descriptions are skillfully crafted and entertaining. And bless little David for giving up his chocolate milk. I have to say, I did shed a tear of joy at this. Priceless. But the abuse in the classroom had me gasping. I was so glad when David’s mother comforted a little girl, confused over what she had done wrong. This shows the experience of an author with teaching experience and the love of children. Now David is 6ft 3ins and muscular. I’m not sure what is the matter with Blanca, I would go to church with him in a heartbeat! But she hurts him, a Ms. Sidakis type of hurt.
So many emotions run through this book, it’s hard to put it down. We root for Blanca and we want to know what happens. Each chapter has a hook of its own. Can God save a chola? Find out, you’ll be extremely glad you did. High stars for great storytelling. CMT Stibbe ~ Chasing Pharaohs
Every now and again I pick up a book and, as I read through it, I feel as though I have died and got into heaven without having to go through the awful business of dying to get there. They Call Me Bianca is one of those books that transports the reader effortlessly to realms of literary enjoyment far beyond mere earthly pleasures.
I sense I will not be alone in according this story much praise. Indeed, praise unstinted: for the quality of writing, scene setting, reflective tone, ambiance and mood. Blanca’s character definition is outstanding… There is a distinct assured authorial touch to the narrative with a finessed command and control that holds the reader’s appreciative attention from the first paragraph onwards. Here is Spanish without tears for those none native to the language as it is never intrusive but always complimentary to the text. Seis estrellas – ****** Tony Brady – SCENES FROM AN EXAMINED LIFE – Books 1,2 & 3.
This book reads like a Latino dance; catchy, fast-paced, and flowing with the beauty of all Diaz’s original and refreshing descriptions.
The book opens well, establishing the protagonist and weaving in background information without the reader even realizing. The school scenes are depicted in detail making the reader feel a part of them, and I particularly enjoyed the characterization of the different students. Michelina’s voice is also well handled, and the infusion of Spanish words adds a unique touch.
Some elements of this book reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s “Cat’s Eye” – particularly the ‘Whatever.’ lines, and the acute attention to detail in the descriptions of characters; like Diaz is conveying a vivid, colourful painting, through her words.
The brutal bullying scene was so realistic and we really feel like we are there with Michelina. Then, the cliff-hanger ending of chapter 5 after Michelina is beaten up and hears the voice “Not yet. You have much to learn.” is absolutely terrific.
I thoroughly enjoyed the twist of Michelina waking up in another body – and the transition is so smooth that I think even readers who aren’t a fan of supernatural ideas will thoroughly enjoy it.
I loved the delicate balance in this book; it is original and an excellent blend of many things. I have rated 6 stars and will keep on my watch-list for further reading. Well done and thank you for such an enjoyable read!~Cara Gold~The Awakening: Dawn of Destruction
This is acutely accomplished and striking with added commercial benefit beyond its genre. I say this as a screen writer and editor that has her fair share of material on a daily basis to read from. The social realism meets time travel is quite simply genius in its originality and scope.
( Although not someone who reads Christian books) I felt inspired by the Christian edict of walking in someone’s shoes in order to understand them more fully. Hence we have Michelina experiencing life as several characters (not in control or actively participating but only along for the ride so to speak.) Hearing, feeling, and viewing life through the eyes of those she perhaps has never fully understood or related to …
This is an extremely powerful work that has touched me in a surprisingly deep way above and beyond whatever its particular philosphy may be.. ~Wiz Wharton Author of : A Small Death
To read a few sample chapters yourself go to: They Call Me Blanca @Wattpad. You won’t be disappointed.
You can also read some more reviews of this unique YA work at : http://lauraadiaz.weebly.com/they-call-me-blanca.html
Author, J. Updike, is quoted as saying,”I want to write books that will unblock the traffic jam in everyone’s mind.”
Well, I want to read those kind of books! ~