Welcome to Diversify 2017! Diversify 2017 is a series of interviews and guest posts centering around books that I’m especially looking forward to and that I think truly represent the diversity movement that’s been shaping up these past couple of years. Today TSW’s featuring a book about gang violence and fitting into a new country:
Release Date: January 17th, 2017
What happens when you fall in love with someone everyone seems determined to fear?
Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself.
Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores-Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid.
Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?
Told in alternating first person points of view, The Radius of Us is a story of love, sacrifice, and the journey from victim to survivor. It offers an intimate glimpse into the causes and devastating impact of Latino gang violence, both in the U.S. and in Central America, and explores the risks that victims take when they try to start over. Most importantly, Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us shows how people struggling to overcome trauma can find healing in love.
Description taken from Goodreads.
What’s the biggest difference between your debut novel and The Radius of Us?
Both stories are set in Georgia, and both deal with themes of immigration (drawing on the work that I do when I’m not writing novels). But they are very different books. Dream Things True tells the story of Alma, who came to Georgia at the age of two. Georgia’s really all she knows, and she calls it home.
The Radius of Us deals with what it’s like to have to run away from the place you call home, because it’s too dangerous to stay. Phoenix shows up in Georgia at age 18, and he’s lost, confused, and carrying around a ton of guilt and remorse. He’s basically trapped in Georgia, and he can’t imagine ever calling it home. But then he starts to care about the people who enter his life, and everything changes.
Is there anything you want readers to know before reading The Radius of Us?
Pupusas are, indeed, as wonderful and delicious as Phoenix makes them out to be. If you haven’t tried them, you must! (And if you know how to make them, please visit me in Atlanta any time!)
What do you love most about Gretchen and Phoenix, and why should readers root for them?
On first glance, Gretchen and Phoenix would appear to be so different. It’s absolutely true that they have very real differences, which profoundly impact on their lives and their opportunities for the future. But they also share a ton in common. What I love most about both of them is this: They think they’re the needy ones. They see themselves as a burden, and they can’t see past their own flaws. But as their relationship deepens, each one of them depends on the other and also supports the other in profound ways. Through the eyes of the other person, they both finally get a glimpse at how incredibly brave and strong they are.
What do you hope that readers, especially teens possibly facing the same situation as Phoenix and his brother, will get out of reading The Radius of Us?
For those who feel like they’ve made mistakes in the past, I hope they’ll take a second look at themselves – through the eyes of the people who love them. I hope they will be able to see what amazing, resilient people they are.
And, I hope every single one of them will know this: They absolutely deserve a life filled with love and a safe place to live it.
What do you think is the most important thing to be doing in diverse lit right now?
We each have a specific role to play in promoting diversity in YA. I’ll stick to what I think it’s important for me to do, as an author who writes some characters outside of my diversity, and who also is deeply committed to diverse lit.
I write the stories that I know intimately, and that I have spent years – decades, actually – involved in. If I didn’t know them so well, I would never write them. But, still, I am extremely careful. I do lots of additional research and I make sure to have sensitivity readers give me feedback. I take that feedback very seriously. This, I believe, is the responsibility of authors.
I also believe we should do what we can to support diverse writers who are who are crafting #ownvoices stories – whether fiction or nonfiction. I volunteer with We Need Diverse Books to help with the Walter Dean Myers Grant, which supports unpublished diverse authors and helps them to connect with agents and publishers.
I also do writing workshops with teen asylum-seekers, encouraging them to tell their stories. I’m actively involved in advocacy with undocumented and DACAmented young adults, helping them to craft their stories, and to share them as a way to push for change. As someone trying to be a responsible, engaged, YA author, this work is central to my purpose.
What diverse read(s) are you most looking forward to in 2017?
I’m so lucky to live in Atlanta! I spend time with some incredibly talented YA authors. So, I’ll go with a short list of some of my local favorites: Nic Stone’s Dear Martin (October 17) and Lauren Karcz’ The Gallery of Unfinished Girls (July 25) are both fabulous debuts. And, of course, Becky Albertalli will not disappoint with The Upside of Unrequited (April 11), which is seamlessly diverse, in so many lovely ways.
Marie Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and author of Dream Things True. She has published articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. Marie is co-chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families, and a member of the We Need Diverse Books team. She lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four children, a dog and a bearded dragon.
— Eli Madison (@thesilverwords) March 24, 2017
Thanks so much to Marie for doing this post! I love how much research and effort is poured into making sure these stories are accurate, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of The Radius of Us! Be sure to keep up with Marie and her novels at the links above, and make sure to enter into the giveaways! Tomorrow’s author will be Jennifer Latham.