Illegal releases on March 8th and practically promises to be a controversial read. I can't stand that word when it refers to people 'illegal.' Ugh. Anyway, the book has already received some praise-worthy reviews and seems to be a popular debut that we in the book blogging world are all waiting for :) With that thought, take it away Bettina.
Please tell us a little about Illegal
14 yr old Nora waits for her father to come back to Mexico so that her life can begin again. He’s working a construction job in Texas and occasionally calls and sends money back to their withering village in Cedula, Mexico. When the phone call and the money stop, Nora creates a plan to cross the border to find him. It’s a coming of age story crossed with illegal immigration. It’s also a spiritual exploration many issues including right vs wrong, God, prejudice, and the forgotten people of society.
I love books where there's more to them then meets the eye. Based on the cover and Amazon/Goodreads summaries I would have just thought it dealt with prejudice and illegal immigration but the fact that it's also a spiritual exploration has piqued my interest even more! There's not much spiritual anything in YA.
How did you break into publishing?
My first story, Elevator Rules, appeared in Highlights for Children in 2003. I broke into publishing by taking classes, rewriting, and investing in myself and my writing.
You are Colombian and yet you chose to write about a Mexican girl's immigration experience. Is there a reason as to why you wanted to make the main character come from a culture different from your own?
I didn’t choose Nora, she chose me. I used to work as an auditor for a chain of Hispanic Supermarkets. I traveled to these locations and the people intoxicated me. One day while traveling, I saw a little girl on the side of the road and I wondered what her story was. She became Nora. While Nora is Mexican, I believe this story could be about any ethnicity.
I explore my Colombian roots in my next YA book, Telenovela. A comic look at a Colombian exchange student in an American High School who isn’t quite what she seems.
Very true, this story could be about any ethnicity, especially since many people come on student visas or work visas and then stay after the visas expire. Not to get too far ahead of myself but Telenovela already has a fabulous title and sounds marvelous :)What book would your book date?
Illegal is a contemporary book set in Houston, Texas (although really, it could be anytown USA). I believe House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos. All are immigrant stories, but the House on Mango Street is written in lyrical prose and is absolutely stunning.
You grew up speaking Spanish and German. What are the benefits of coming from a bi-cultural home?
You have more holidays to celebrate, more languages and cultures top make your own, and the world is smaller and more accessible. It can also make you a stutterer (like I did throughout kindergarten when I didn’t know which language went where).
Couldn't have said it better myself, hooray for bicultural people! (and every other ethnic background/mix. Hooray for mixed up people!). While it can be challenging to balance both cultures I do love the varying perspectives I get from both and the world does seem more accessible. Since only one parent speaks another language, I'm not fortunate enough to have grown up bilingual so I envy you that! I do hope you weren't teased for stuttering, that infuriates me (the teasing, not stuttering).
What are some of your current favorite YA reads? What fellow '11 debuts are you looking forward to?
I adore John Green with his use of humor and twisting plot lines. He is my secret literary boyfriend (although he doesn’t know it). Maggie Stiefvater, Jenny Moss, Michelle Zink. Too many to mention!
We have a great class at www.classof2k11.com - so choosing just one is way hard. I can’t wait to get my hands on The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner, or Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach.
What two PoC characters would you love to hang out?
I don’t do drama or whiny girls. I think I would like to hang out with Hassan from An Abundance of Katherines because he makes me laugh and perhaps Jenna Fox (to see what is like to rebuild a life) from the Adoration of Jenna Fox.
What is one issue you have with YA/MG? What is something you love about YA/MG?
Like I said above – I hate whiny characters who don’t DO anything. To me, YA is just like an adult read with a teen character. Nobody likes a whiner, and I see too many whiners. Teens are smart and saavy.
What I love about YA is that teens are smart and savvy, but inexperienced with life. Whatever they feel is at the extreme because it is the first time it happens and they don’t have the life experience to know if it will get better or worse. I also love YA because teens love greater and stronger than anyone else I know.
I agree on the dislike of whiny characters who don't redeem themselves in any way, shape or form. I love how you express YA 'an adult read with a teen character' combined with our inexperience with life. It's like that Eleanore Roosevelt quote about women ("A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water"), but it applies to teenagers too. We are vulnerable creatures and we never know how strong we are until we are pushed to our limit. Or at least, I feel that way. And it doesn't hurt for a YA author to give us compliments ;)
Where can readers find out more about you and your books? Website http://www.bettinarestrepo.com/
Contest details! What Does It Mean to Be Illegal?
Dear Readers, if you would like to participate in a signed giveaway of Illegal (there are 5 signed copies), please answer the following question; Would you break the law to find your family across a foreign border?
Please comment with your answer, town/state or country (international is allowed, sweet!). The winner will be announced on April 1 and the winner must contact Ms. Restrepo with their mailing address.
Personally: I would
Can't wait to read everyone else's answers! Oh and if you say no, could you explain why not?