It’s taken a long time, but I finally got around to ordering your book from Amazon. Last night I read it in one sitting and I want to comment on it before my thoughts fade away–or disappear altogether.
First of all, it is compelling reading. The secrets and lies of the title are very well integrated into the general background of the story which presents a dismaying picture of want and occasional prosperity, normal life and life carried on in the midst of terror. Except for the protagonist the other characters, to my mind, are sketched rather than filled in. Shelly is a believable woman, but I thought that her attachment to José was presented too suddenly. In general, I think that what I would have considered the most telling scene in the story–Romero’s assassination– was given short shrift. Were you present in New Orleans when there was a huge turnout at the Canal Place Theatre in commemoration of his life and works?
I liked the emphasis on food as a metaphor for the love and nurture offered by Abuela, in particular. I also liked Shelly’s care for the plants at the Refugee Center.
Finally, I think that Shelly’s actions speak loudly enough for the political message you wanted to convey so that there is less need to explicate it, as you do at the end of the novel. The “social ” message, as I see it: newfound recognition of the bonds of family, I consider apt for Shelly. Not for me. I prefer ties that connect people outside the family circle. I know that you believe in a wider solidarity, but Shelly’s change of ideas and sentiments regarding family and religion bothered me.This reaction shows my strong bias as an unbeliever. I can’t deny that when family ties begin to look like tribalism, I am disturbed. And as for religion, Marx’s stand (Religion is the opium of the people) is a view I share.Objectivity in reading and trying to understand a work of fiction is not really possible. I guess you may know me well enough to recognize that I don’t value objectivity overmuch or consider it attainable unless it is a question of an historical account, Even then, it is very hard to achieve on the part of the author and readers reacting to the account.
Congratulations! You have certainly produced a gripping account of Shelly’s sojourn in El Salvador. I hope the the book on New Orleans will come out soon.
I hope that you and your family are well. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Thank you for ordering & reading the book. And thank you for your candor. I have a couple friends that normally speak candidly to me, but they have never discussed the book with me this way.
I was in Rochester when Romero was killed, at the beginning of my road toward activism. CISPES had put together a slide show about Romero’s assassination & the ensuing repression. Since my protagonist’s stay in ES was only about a year, the characters had to be sketchy (I think). My initial ideas for this novel started in NOLA. J’s sister, G, told me about her friend who’s father was a union leader & how hard it will be for her to become a doctor. (She is a doctor today!) G is also a dr. but she came to New Orleans after the earthquake in El Salvador & lived with us. She actually told me she couldn’t write a review because the novel is about her family! I don’t think it is, but there are hybrids of real people in the novel.
Right now, G is fixing the terrible translation done by a young Salvadoran who never lived in an English speaking country! I hired a company to do the translation. G says my mistake was saying I wanted it translated by a Salvadoran. She’s probably right because initially K hired an Argentinian to do the translation with help from a friend who is Salvadoran.
I had the formatting done already when I was looking through it for minor mistakes. That’s when I started freaking out as there are mistakes even in the title.
Since G is a doctor, it is taking her a while to get through it all, but she has promised me that it flows much better. I am grateful for that.
I believe I had some sense of your atheism (if that’s what you call it). And certainly Catholicism enters into your issues and concerns with the Spanish conquest.
I was an agnostic most of my life. After 9/11, I found a place called Agape International House of Worship. At that time, Rev. Michael followed Science of Mind. It is a fascinating belief system! No hell or devil & they combine the beliefs of the 7 major religions of the world. Many there are practitioners or studying to be practitioners so Rev. Michael does not consider himself the be-all, end-all of his church; in fact, he once told the audience (~1-2,000 twice every Sunday) that he hoped they would take the ideas back to their home church. Many of the practitioners were past & present activists.
SOM1 was a course I took after the Newcomer course. It was very healing. Most of my past has been healed so I was able to be kind & loving to my parents, as well as accept their deaths which was something I had always believed was going to tear me apart. I hardly cried when my dad died. I guess because we had plenty of time to talk after my mom died. Because of my mom’s & my difficult relationship, that was harder to come to terms with, but I now see that I am a peace activist because of her influence.
As a teen, I went with a friend to a Catholic mass. At the time, I wished I had been able to confess my “sins.” I had done some dumb stuff as a child and in my mind, it made me a bad person. If I had been forgiven, I wouldn’t have carried around that guilt most of my life. I met several priests & nuns in New Orleans, including Father Roy Bourgeois & Sister Helen Prejean. They have continued to do great work: Father Roy, organizing against the School of the Americas; Sister Helen, ministering to those on death row & actively working to have the death penalty outlawed in this country. Being aware of the work Catholics priests & nuns were doing in El Salvador & going to funeral masses for the many priests that were killed in El Salvador helped me to see that there were many in the Catholic Church (albeit the lower echelons) who were very good & loving people, people who gave their lives for the poor they tried to help.
In the end, I consider myself spiritual, but definitely not religious. I have gotten a couple messages from my mom after her death when I felt I couldn’t go on.
Also, I don’t know if you knew that I was a teacher, full-time, for about 13 years, plus subbing when I moved back to San Diego from LA where I taught kids from many countries. At Venice High School, there were a lot of Oaxacans. We had a few teachers from Spain. Those kids, whose 1st language was an Indigenous one, were angry at the Spanish, not the Americans, as groups like MEChA are.
There have been many difficulties I have put myself through and finding that I had a belief system that fit with Spiritual Thought helped me get out of my funk of finding people to save and allowed me to save myself and finally be ready to spend the rest of my life with a kind, loving man like Angelo.
Not sure if you wanted to know all this, but there it is anyway!
(P.S. Because of all the mess with translation, my New Orleans book is on hold, but I will try to attach the cover so you can see it.
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Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” will be out en Español very soon! It is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too: