NOTE: at the bottom of this post is a clue to our first dePaola Code...to be deciphered very soon!
I’ve been obsessed with the plight of the illegal Mexican immigrant ever since the 8th grade when my friend Jim Simon’s homecoming dance date got deported back to Mexico two days before the big event. The sweet quiet girl from my Spanish class who helped me with my homework disappeared without a trace. Then, more kids started disappearing daily...plucked from their homes and schools and tossed back onto the other side of the fence to face a lack of jobs and extreme poverty.
I’m baffled when people get angry aboutMexicans crossing the border into the states to make better lives for themselves. These, of course, are usually the same people who hire these illegal Mexican immigrants to cut their lawns, clean their houses, and pour the concrete for their swimming pools. “They’re taking all our jobs,” they say. To which I reply, “Oh really? I didn’t know you had applied to pick strawberries and got rejected.”
Fact is, Mexicans come here to work hard, make a little money, and send it home to loved ones. At least this is the case with every single one I’ve ever met. But politics aside...and I will tie this into children’s writing, I promise...only a soulless person would turn a blind eye to the thousands of children crossing the border ALONE each year to find their families.
I recently had the rare opportunity to work with children who had endured crazy and harrowing journeys crossing the border into California. Wide-eyed and open mouthed, I’d sit and listen for hours to their unbelievable stories. They’d usually respond to my gasps with something like, “What’sthe big deal? It’s just life.”
Well, the big deal is it’s not life...for most of us privileged enough to have grown up with the luxuries of running water, electricity and free education. So, I wrote. I’m compiling their stories into a YA nonfiction anthology. When starting out, an author oncetold me, “Write the stories you must tell...the ones you can’t imagine NOT telling.” Well, these are those stories.
I don’t intend to write this book as a preachy social message. In fact, no matter which side of the immigration debate you’re on, you gotta find this stuff riveting. If just one young adult is entertained by these adventurous, survival-against-all-odds stories...great! But if another is moved to promote social change and tolerance...I’ll be thrilled beyond belief.
CLUE: Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, Satan, Pandora...and you!!!