Saturday, February 27, 2010

The 1950’s

by Hilde Garcia

My next-door neighbor came over today and shared with me two photos from 1954. In the first photo, he posed with his mom our driveway and in the second photo, his mom is standing by her white picket fence in the back yard.

She’s waving in the photo. I can’t believe that’s my back yard. There is a chain link fence there now, and the bushes and flowers have been replaced with red stone pavers.

When I was growing up, I read all the time. I wanted to live in a house with a white picket fence and have my own room. Instead, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with my parents and my brother and we slept in the living room.

I wanted to grow up and write stories that started with Once Upon A Time and ended with Lived Happily Ever After. I yearned for the nostalgia I read about, the Dick and Jane books, and idyllic YA stories like Anne of Green Gables. I wished for a room like hers.

Here we are, many, many years later. YA is a whole new ball game. No more picket fences and neighbors saying hello. Many of my favorite current novels explore themes like abuse, suicide, sex, drinking and highlight main characters that are left of center, characters that go against the grain.

Edgy YA, that’s what everyone calls it. I thought I would never be able to write that type of story. That’s the thought in the back of my head. And yet, if I follow the advice of write what you know, I should have a best seller.

In my youth, there was abuse. I thought about suicide. I tasted my first beer at 15. I was so scared my mom would smell it on my breath that I didn’t talk the whole way home from the party. My legs were numb and I felt slightly queasy. I remember looking for books that would explain these feelings to me, to help guide me. My parents were oblivious to me needs, just trying to live the American Dream. They couldn’t understand my angst for freedom, my need to explore sex and go out and be a teenager. We might have left Cuba, but Cuba didn’t leave us. I was to be a good Cuban girl. (No drinking, no sex, no drugs).

I decided to write what I knew. Why not? It’s hard, because it’s close to the core. But I found that the YA novels I love the most are the ones in which the author lets me in and takes me on a journey. And when I have lived in his world, I feel good, sometimes bad, but better to have gone on the journey.

Is there a white picket fence in my story- perhaps, but the truth is that my character wants to be heard and has much to say and is finding her way, which is an eternal human condition. That’s a good place to start.

Maybe my earlier life will lead me to a powerful story and maybe my need to write it is so that it will be there for the next person who is exploring and needs to feel reassured.

It may not start with once upon a time, something more like, “I live in a one-bedroom apartment.”

Either way, idyllic is all in how you remember it.


  1. Love this and especially love that photo of Victoria, I mean you! Hee... I really did do a double-take there!

    "Is there a white picket fence in my story- perhaps, but the truth is that my character wants to be heard and has much to say and is finding her way, which is an eternal human condition. That’s a good place to start."

    Hilde, that is a GREAT place to start!!

  2. Thanks for your honesty. I think "real" keeps my attention more than "once upon a time." Keep up the good writing.

  3. I'm a teacher at a title I school in Katy TX. Edgy YA is what my students devour. This year my students are reading, on average, 30-40 books and they have made their way to wanting something heavy, something real. We had a pretty hefty discussion a about "happy endings"...basically my students find them forgettable. We too, agreed, that the "real" is what sticks with us as readers and makes the most difference in our lives. The "in your face" nature of raw reality is what makes grow as a person, walk in others shoes and learn something about ourselves. Life is not a Disney movie. As learners, we want what stretches us and allows us to walk in others' shoes. I love keepin it real!


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