Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Ocotillo Dreams", an Appreciation

I recently read Melinda Palacio's wonderful "Ocotillo Dreams" and have been thinking about it quite a bit. If you don't know the versatile and talented Ms Palacio, check out her site here. She's probably best known as a poet, but she's also a blogger, speaker, and now, a novelist to be reckoned with.
Like Isola, the heroine of "Ocotillo Dreams," I grew up in a family that sometimes embraced and sometimes barely balanced between two cultures; I have found myself fascinated more and more by my own blended culture--and drawn to others' hybrid identities--as each year passes.
I also grew up with a mother who challenged stereotypes, and created her own persona--part hippy, part activist, part "earth mother", and always her own woman--so I could relate to Isola's mixture of embarrassment and pride in her own mom.
The novel's story is deceptively simple--Isola comes to Arizona to settle her late mom's "estate" and finds herself involved with some undocumented workers that have crossed and are crossing the border. But the story is not the whole story--the deeper tale is one of identity, self-awareness, and belonging. Isola must learn about herself in order to learn about her mother--and in order to find her life's deeper purpose.
For those of us who live on the border, and confront these challenges daily, the book's characters and locations will feel specific and familiar, but no less intriguing for all that. For those unfamiliar with the Southwest U.S. and our border issues, this book is a great way to explore the territory and the culture--but more than all that, readers will be drawn into the novel and soon care deeply about the people they meet in its pages.
This week I've switched literary gears a few times--I finished the Hunger Games series, am currently reading "Black and White" Wes Albers debut police novel, set in San Diego. And of course, I'm preparing for the YA fiction class I'm teaching on March 31st at San Diego Writer's Ink.
Meanwhile, the wind is gusting hard under a bright blue sky--blowing my little boat about at its mooring, reminding me who is boss. Nature, that is.
hasta pronto!

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