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MCG, a Chicana feminist, for sure, teaches community college English

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Interlude: The Next Big Thing

I am very excited to share with you all that I have been tagged by my colleague, office mate, dear, dear friend, my work wife, Karin Spirn as THE NEXT BIG THING!!! Karin Spirn is the author of Hold This Pose and her latest hit in progress, The Divine Sharpness in the Heart of God. The Divine Sharpness is about a Ph.D. candidate and assistant instructor at a university who's been trained by his graduate school advisors to care so much more about his own academic pursuits rather than his students that he begins to see them as objects of derision and objects of desire. 

Now for the low down on my own new project.

What is the working title for your book?

The Republic of California. 

Where did the idea come from for your book? 

I teach a dystopian themed literature class because dystopian lit is an excellent way to teach critical thinking and because I'm obsessed with dystopian literature. For many years, the book 1984 was such a totem that I would have never dreamed of attempting something so epic, but then I read Super Sad True Love Story, and Gary Shytngart's modern take on a dystopian USA, gave me the courage to try. Then there's that whole thing about my "psychotic obsession" (Karin Spirn's description) with dystopian literature, which I'm sure has some deep-seeded childhood source.

What genre does your book fall under?

The Republic of California is totally dystopian, though I'm a bit wary of calling it that because it seems agents are being inundated by dystopian manuscripts due to the popularity of The Hunger Games series. In my search for an agent for my first book (a memoir) Pretty Bold For a Mexican Girl: Growing up Chicana in a Hick Town, I found an agent (who is currently holding the first 25 pages of the memoir for consideration), whose website states specifically that she is currently not reading queries for dystopian novels. The Republic of California is also satire, as dystopian lit tends to be, so maybe I'll call it dystopian and maybe I'll call it satire. It will depend on who's asking.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Under the direction of wealthy white CEO's, California secedes from the United States, relocates, blacks, Asians, and any other people of color to Chula Vista, El Centro and Brawley, gives that territory to Arizona since they're so fervent about protecting the border anyway. And seeking to maintain control and dominance in the state, the white CEO's require the two majority groups, Caucasians and Mexicans, to intermarry, thereby creating of a new race of beautiful and hardworking people. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Naya Rivera (Glee) would play Marisol the protagonist, and Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) would play her friend and unsanctioned lover. Jason Sudekis will be play Marisol's co-worker, the one who wants to date her. Jeremy Ray Valdez (Walkout and La Mission) will play the Mexican goatherd love interest who will further upset the balance of things. There's an animal character too, a goat, which would be played by the goat in the photo. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Let's just say it will be represented by an agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I began writing the manuscript December 2011, and I've written almost 50, 000 words. I've got a ways to go before it's finished, but I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the plot.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Dystopian literature tends to borrow heavily from other dystopian texts. That said, this book will likely be compared with Orwell's 1984 (just like any other dystopian novel tends to be), a book that I've read at least twelve times, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and Gary Shtyngart's Super Sad True Love Story. I promise it will still feel new and innovative.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Simply put, being Mexican, a third-generation Chicana, inspired me to write this book and the fact that we are not a post-racial America as many like to believe. The book is inspired by the contradictory nature of racism and stereotypes. For example, Mexicans have been regarded as both lazy and hard-working. And the excoticization of women of color, that's another inspiration. These are all good things to poke fun at.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The characters in the book and all single Republic co-eds are required to have a social networking account called Combination Nation on which they're required to upload photo streams of themselves, one for each season, summer, spring, fall, and winter, and in which all sides of the citizen can be featured, including photos what one might wear in the summer, like a bikini. And there are pretty strict rules about how often citizens have to update their accounts, go on dates, and/or video chat with other single combinations (the Republic's term for your potential partner). Combination Nation is heavily monitored and when a citizen doesn't make enough of an effort to find a combination, the citizen receives feedback about what to do differently. For example, Mexicanas might be prompted to smile more, wear more make-up, lower cut tops, sprinkle their speech with any Spanish words they might know, the way one might sprinkle pizza with red chili, but don't over do it because English is the national language and too much red chili will burn your tongue.

All that and the fact that the novel explores true love/desire and societal standards, how those two things are, for better and often for worse, inextricably linked, which when it comes to the plot of the story equals a tender and steamy lesbian affair and a love triangle.

But that's enough about me and my book, allow me to introduce THE NEXT BIG THINGS: 

Jenny Forrester  author of a zine called Gods, Guns, and Irony A Memoir of a Conservative Childhood and co-editor with Ariel Gore of the anthology The People's Apocalypse. Jenny is working on a memoir about growing up in a small town in Western Colorado, Minturn and Mancos, with her brother and single mom who lived as a hippie, a Republican, a feminist, and a church organist. Forrester's tender, lyrical writing takes my breath away. You can learn more about Jenny Forrester and her writing from this 2011 Penduline Press interview. 

Margaret Elysia Garcia  is writing a novel about shy American teen coming of age in Germany in the 1980's before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her military family stationed in Germany, the narrator, cut off from American life, discovers her already wicked step-father's terrifying secrets, and finds solace in Marla Dietrich who appears to her like a fairy godmother. Garcia's writing is fearless and biting and the narrator's love affair with the next door neighbor, Bernd, will transport readers straight back to their own first time. You can learn more about Margaret Elysia Garcia here.

Incidentally, both Jenny Forrester and Margaret Elysia Garcia will be reading, along with Ariel Gore from The People's Apocalypse at Pegasus Books in Berkeley this Tuesday starting at 7:30. See you there!

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