La Bloga brings you a new virtual book tour stop. Damas y caballeros, ladies and gentlemen, the amazing author, Jennifer Ziegler, presents her new book Sass & Serendipity.
Capturing My Culture—It’s All in the Details
By Jennifer ZieglerGrowing up, no one realized I was Latina when they first met me. I have blonde hair, greenish eyes, and my maiden name is Ford, and yet my mom is of Mexican descent, and hers was the culture I identified with the most as a child. There were several elements of my young life that were distinctly Mexican, or at least directly traceable to my mother’s side – traditions, foods, dances, stories, and other regular occurrences (like my grandfather singing “Volver Volver” at all the family weddings and reunions).
After I became a published author, people who knew my background started asking if I’d ever consider writing about “the Latino experience.” This confused me. The phrase seemed to imply that we all shared one common experience rather than each of us having vastly different, individual lives. Moreover, it seemed to insinuate that my ethnicity directly translated into plotlines. To me, being Hispanic helped conjure up characters and backgrounds, even a few settings, but it wasn’t a story in and of itself.
In my latest novel, Sass & Serendipity, the two sisters happen to be bi-ethnic, but the plot doesn’t revolve around that detail. Thus, the story is actually more personal, more reflective of my own childhood. While my Mexican heritage is a huge part of me, it isn’t one identifiable section but rather thousands of threads weaving through all aspects of my life. Sometimes it’s in the big details, like values and long-standing customs. Sometimes it’s in the little details, like phrases and sensations.
Consider, for example, this excerpt from Chapter Seven, where I pay homage to my own grandmother. The snippet doesn’t further the main plot, but it does provide a glimpse into the head and heart of one of my protagonists:
Grandma Rivera had taught her this recipe for carne guisada the year before she died. Gabby was about eleven, and she and Daphne had gone to stay with her for most of the summer. . .
Gabby had loved those cooking sessions. The peppery smells permeating the tiny kitchen. The clouds of flour stirred up by Grandma’s bony hands as she made tortillas. Even the sweat and calluses and burn blisters. It made her feel important and empowered. And it made her feel closer to Grandma.
Of course, Grandma had tried to teach Daphne, too, but at age eight the girl had had the attention span of a caffeinated hummingbird, so she was quickly dismissed. Instead, Grandma lavished her with several home-sewn dresses made of bright pastels and covered with piping and bows. So while Gabby pounded meat, kneaded masa, and sliced vegetables until her hands were dotted with tiny stab wounds, Daphne spent the summer twirling about in her new clothes.
Gabby still thought of Grandma whenever she cooked, and missed her terribly. . . . When she was little, she’d been scared of the short, round woman, who was always rushing around with various kitchen utensils, barking out orders in Spanish, hugging her too tightly, and poking her cheeks with her fingertips. But later she identified with her grandmother’s bossy, methodical nature. It pleased her to know she came from hardy female stock. . .
There is never just one way to present a culture. People, customs, beliefs, and personal histories all vary. Perhaps the best thing to do is make sure that stories of all kinds—true and fictional, from all regions and all segments of society—end up being told.
And with Sass & Serendipity, I’m happy to share a part of my Latina experience.
Jennifer's next stop on the tour after La Bloga is A Good Addiction at http://laurenscrammedbookshelf.blogspot.com/.
A Sassy Giveaway! Three lucky winners will each receive one copy of Jennifer Ziegler's SASS & SERENDIPITY along with Jane Austen's classic, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. To enter, send an e-mail to SassandSerendipity@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person; prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 8/5/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 8/6/11 and notified via email.
To learn more about Jennifer, visit her website: http://www.jenniferziegler.net/index.html or blog: http://www.jenniferziegler.net/blog/