I’m winding up Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), with an interview with fellow Santa Cruz author Sylvia Patience about her new novel The Weaver’s Daughter. Sylvia writes her novel with understated passion and emotion that drew me into The Weaver’s Daughter’s story. Continue reading to learn more about Sylvia and her timely novel that honors immigrants and the Hispanic/Latinx community.
Linda Covella: Welcome, Sylvia! Please tell us what The Weaver’s Daughter is about.
Sylvia Patience: Ixchel (Chel) is a young Maya girl from Mérida whose mother, a weaver, has a vision. The goddess of weaving commands her to send Chel across the border to el Norte in search of her father. Chel tells how she decides to go, how the money is saved, and about her sometimes frightening and dangerous journey to Los Angeles. Finding her father, she learns he has a new wife and child. She must decide whether to stay.
LC: You spent some time living in Mexico, which brings an authenticity to the main character, twelve-year-old Ixchel, as well as other characters and the setting. How did you come to live there? In what part of Mexico did you live, and how long were you there? Please tell us a little about your experience living there.
SP: I lived in Mexico for three years after I married a man whose family lived there. My daughter was born there. We lived in the D.F. (capital) except for a few months in Cuernavaca. I learned a lot about the culture and learned to speak Spanish during that time. I didn’t work but attended the University for a year.
LC: Was your time spent in Mexico part of the inspiration for writing The Weaver’s Daughter? If so, how?
SP: A more recent trip to the Yucatan was my initial inspiration to write The Weaver’s Daughter. There I learned more about the Maya culture and language and the history of that area. Two young girls I met, who were selling their mothers’ weaving, inspired Chel and her friend Rosa. I also spoke to a man who had traveled back and forth to California to work.
LC: Why did you choose to write from the perspective of Ixchel rather than an adult?
SP: The Weaver’s Daughter is written for children ages 10-13. My young readers would relate to Chel more than to an adult. And this is her story, for her to tell.
LC: Besides your personal experience of living in Mexico, what type of research did you do, including some of the harrowing details of Ixchel’s crossing the border?
SP: Much of my research was done online and through reading books about immigration from Mexico. I also have many years’ experience working with immigrants from Mexico and Central America. I hired two sensitivity readers/culture consultants to read the book for language and appropriate cultural information. One reader is a young woman who crossed the border with her parents as a child. The other is a Yucatec Maya and an expert on the language.
LC: Immigration is currently an important topic in our country (and in many others). Was this also part of your inspiration for writing The Weaver’s Daughter? How does Ixchel’s story reflect the current state of immigration?
SP: Definitely! Although news of the pandemic and climate related fires and hurricanes has displaced stories about immigration lately, it is ongoing and a major issue. People are fleeing north to the U.S. and to Europe because of climate change related crop failures, hunger, poverty, and increasing violence.
Many children in our schools are immigrants. I believe it’s important to tell stories like this that these children can relate to and to educate others about the immigrant experience. Since I started writing this book, immigration has only increased and become a larger issue.
LC: Yes, I’m seeing the younger generations wanting to be informed on immigration and other important issues, which is encouraging since they will soon be our leaders.
It’s always interesting to learn about an author’s writing process. How long did it take you to write this novel? Do you have a writing/critique group to review your progress? Beta readers?
SP: It’s always hard for me to say how long it takes me to write a book. I believe I started this one around ten years ago. It’s been through many drafts. I’ve written other things and come back to it. I kept pursuing it because I believe it’s an important story to tell. I belong to two writing critique groups and they read the whole book in various installments and gave me invaluable feedback. I also had a few people, including my brother and daughter, read the book as well as the two culture consultants I hired.
LC: As a dog lover, I enjoyed the addition of the little dog Box ni (Black Nose) that Ixchel takes under her wing. What does Box ni represent in the story? What does he mean to Ixchel, how do they help each other?
SP: I’m a dog lover too. My other published book is the Wizard of Oz told from Toto’s perspective (Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz). I gave Chel the little dog, Box ni, as a companion after her friend Rosa surrendered to the border patrol. In addition to the immigration issue, the book addresses issues of family, friendship, and love. Box ni helps Chel understand some of these issues.
LC: I like that you didn’t end the story at a predictable place. (I won’t go into details because of spoilers!) Do you have plans to continue Ixchel’s story in a sequel?
SP: I hadn’t thought of a sequel, but another writer who recently read the book suggested one. It’s something to think about.
LC: Anything else you’d like to add?
SP: I’d just like to thank you, Linda, for this opportunity to answer questions about The Weaver’s Daughter and to discuss the immigration issue with readers of your blog.
LC: I really enjoyed learning more about The Weaver’s Daughter, your background, and your thoughts on immigration. Thanks so much, Sylvia!
Sylvia Patience has written several middle grade novels. Toto’s Tale and True Chronicle of Oz was published in 2015. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies and her professional articles in The Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. Sylvia’s short fairy tales have received prizes in the international Hans Christian Andersen contest. Her latest book, The Weaver’s Daughter, came out from Desert Palm Press in August 2020.
In her non-writing life Sylvia is a nurse practitioner and midwife. She lived in Mexico for several years. She speaks fluent Spanish and works with immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
She is currently working on The Double Crossing, a middle grade historical fiction about the 1939 voyage of the MS St. Louis carrying over 900 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.
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