Book Spotlight: Finding Amor

Happy Wednesday, reader friends!

Today, we’re shining the spotlight on Finding Amor by Allison K. Garcia.


About the Book:

Escaping a violent and abusive environment, eight-year-old Emanuel Martinez attempts to cross through three countries to be with his mother, Ana, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. When la migra catches him at the border and he’s thrown into an immigration center, his dreams for being a real family start to disappear.

Vowing never to be like her own mother who abandoned her and never looked back, Ana has worked for six years to get her son to the United States, Now Ana has to rely on her distant mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Carlos, to finally get her son to her side so they can build a life together.

When Lauren Barrett agrees to help with the afterschool program, she soon realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Growing up in an unsupportive home has made her insecure and vulnerable, plus suffering through years of infertility hasn’t helped matters. Yet she longs to do something meaningful with her life and wonders when that opportunity will come along. When a special young boy named Emanuel enters her life, he turns her worldview on its head.

As their lives intersect, will they help each other understand what family and love and home really mean?

Buy Allison’s book on Amazon


About the Author:

Allison K. Garcia is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but she has wanted to be a writer ever since she could hold a pencil.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Shenandoah Valley Writers, Virginia Writers Club, and is Municipal Liaison for Shenandoah Valley NaNoWriMo.

Allison’s short story, “At Heart,” was published in the Winter 2013 edition of From the Depths literary magazine, along with her flash fiction. Her work, “You Shall Receive,” was published in GrayHaven Comics’s 2014 All Women’s anthology. Winning an honorary mention in the ACFW Virginia 2015 short story contest, “Just Another Navidad” was published in A bit of Christmas. Allison finaled in the 2016 ACFW Genesis Contest and is a 2018 Eric J. Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist for Vivir el Dream, published May 2017. Her highly-anticipated novel, Finding Amor, releases in September 2018.

Latina at heart, Allison has been featured in local newspapers for her connections in the Latino community in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A member of cultural competency committees for work and a participant in several pro-immigrant rallies and other events in her region, she also sings on the worship team and enjoys get-togethers with the hermanos in her church. With the help of her husband, Julio, and their son, Miguel, she has been able to nurture her love for the Latino people.

Follow Allison on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Website

Sign-up for Allison’s Newsletter here.

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Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book “Finding Amor”

Happy Monday, reader friends!

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Allison K. Garcia, author of Finding Amor.


Interview with Allison K. Garcia about her book, Finding Amor:

Alexis: What inspired you to write this book?

Allison: I was inspired by a couple things in 2014…On the news, there was a video of little kids on a bus near an immigration detention center. Outside the bus were a bunch of angry Americans yelling at them and carrying signs. It broke my heart. I thought about how scary it must be for those small children to be surrounded by an angry mob after what was surely a traumatic border crossing. And I began to think how most likely some of those people yelling angrily at the children were also proclaiming to be Christians (as I had heard echoed sentiments in our community), and I wanted to change the narrative. This is the first scene of my book. The other thing that inspired my book was hearing the story from someone at church about how a little boy in the afterschool program came to Christ and subsequently brought many of the other little kids to salvation as well. That touched my heart, and from there my main character, Emanuel, was born.

Alexis: How did you choose your characters?

Allison: I am a pantser, so a lot of times my characters choose me. Haha. But seriously, I had the idea for Emanuel, so logically his mother, Ana, came next. I added a third POV of the afterschool teacher, Lauren, and her husband, Peter, who is a loveable slob. I’m not sure how Carlos, my antagonist, came about but my editor made me turn him into a POV character so you can thank her for that! Mamita is just this sweet little grandma that I pictured, the representation of quintessential unconditional love. Kayli, Mari, and Dwayne are my favorite of Emanuel’s buddies. You’ll see more of them in my second book. Sandra, Ana’s mother, was really fleshed out in editing, and I really love her now. There is a lot under the surface there.

I know I didn’t answer your question, but truthfully, I feel like they chose me, and they keep surprising me! Who knows what will happen in my second and third books? I have a general direction but there are plenty surprises for all of us around the corner.

Alexis: What is the setting for this book? Describe it.

Allison: Lederville, Virginia is a small city I created in the Shenandoah Valley. It has a diverse population and is loosely based off of Harrisonburg, VA, where I live. It has all four seasons, including beautiful fall foliage and occasionally disruptive snowfalls. They have a bus system and Uber. There are suburbs, trailer parks, apartments, and farms. They have thrift stores and international grocery stores, especially Hispanic/Latino, which is a burgeoning population in Lederville. There is a park called North River Park which has open fields and shelters for picnics and parties. Also, there is a nice church called Dove Peak Presbyterian Church next to the Rolling Hills Trailer Park where three of my main characters live. It is a very welcoming church that holds an afterschool program and does Christmas caroling and has a thriving Spanish service.

Alexis: What is Finding Amor about? Share in a few sentences (not the blurb).

Finding Amor is the first part of a larger series, Buscando Home, about a family from El Salvador broken through decades of war, violence, and distance. Finding Amor is the first glimpse into their world – why they are broken, some of what they’ve gone through, and how far they have to go in order to heal and find peace and home together. Finding Amor is about finding the love of family, God, and within ourselves. It also calls people to love both God and their neighbors, the two main tenants of Christianity.

Alexis: Take us inside Emanuel Martinez’s mind. What was it like to be thrown into an immigration center after he was so close to freedom at the border?

Allison: I think we’ll get a much better idea of this in my next book, but it is a horrible thing. His mother had to leave to make enough money to support him, but he was too small to travel across three countries, so he has waited so long to be with his mother, living in an abusive home environment. The coyote (the person who helps people cross the border) took him on a freight train for faster travel, where he had some traumatic experiences. Just a reminder that from El Salvador to the border is about 2,000 miles, which is the equivalent of traveling from Virginia to Arizona. To travel that far and to be so small, it is impressive. Emanuel is a strong little guy, but the journey took its toll on him. Imagine traveling all the way from east to west coast at eight years old and just as you’re about to see your long-lost mother, you are apprehended and told you may never see her. This is a truth that is happening again and again. People who are just looking for asylum, for a better life for their family, risking their lives for freedom, only to be put into cages. Very upsetting.

Alexis: Did Emanuel travel to the border by himself? I understand that he’s only eight years old. Describe his journey.

Allison: His mother paid for a coyote, someone to cross him. It is a 2,000-mile journey. Often people will take freight trains to make the trip faster. It usually takes a month or more of hiding from immigration officials in the various countries, especially Mexico, where officials are sometimes corrupt and need bribes to let you pass. Also, there is a lot of gang activity near the border and people sometimes get kidnapped. For Emanuel, he took a traumatic freight train ride with the coyote, he traveled for about a month, hiding from officials, and then was captured at the border. More info about his journey will come out in my next book. It is a horrible journey even for adults and thousands of people die trying to cross the border. Emanuel is one of the lucky ones who made it across.

Alexis: In what ways does Finding Amor reflect the current immigration debate, trauma and drama in the USA?

Allison: My main goals for writing Latino Christian fiction are to have Latinos represented in Christian fiction, share God’s word, and show authentic stories of undocumented immigrants so that people can open their hearts and minds and grow in compassion and love and understanding. In showing real stories and explaining the whys and showing the human side to immigration, my hope is that people who have negative views towards immigrants will understand more and realize that we are called to love our neighbors, no matter what their documentation status or skin color or language, etc. I purposefully put a very diverse group of people in the book, because it represents America and also in Revelations is shows Heaven as a place where “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” people are praising God. Also, there are important verses that remind us that we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. We cannot love God without loving our neighbor any more than we can love our neighbor without loving God. This is another theme that is represented in Lauren’s story. Seeing her neighbors in a new light and seeing the love they show her, helps her grow to love others and herself more. So, for me, the trauma and drama and debates in the U.S. boil down to a lack of love.

Alexis: Who is Lauren Barrett and what is her significance to this story?

Allison: Lauren is an overweight, churchgoing legal secretary who has trouble saying no, especially to church activities. She gets roped into helping with the afterschool program at church, which is hurtful because she has been dealing with infertility for over a decade. She represents the average churchgoing person who looks fine from the outside but has a lot going on inside, while at the same time finds herself lacking compassion for others and losing perspective on where she is in her life. Her interactions with the Martinez family and the other families in the afterschool program make a drastic impact on the way she views the world.

Alexis: How does Lauren’s family dynamics and a background that made her insecure affect her life as a grown woman? In what ways does her personal history endear her heart to Emanuel?

Allison: Lauren grew up in a very unsupportive family with some emotional abuse that made her more vulnerable towards abusive relationships. In high school, she had an abusive boyfriend, but thankfully, she met Peter, who showed her unconditional love. Even though she has God in her life and Peter, she still has the burden of those early days, and she struggles with that need to please and make people happy and also with loving herself. I think she sees herself in Emanuel a little bit, plus Emanuel just has a good heart and is kind to her right off the bat, which endears him to her.

Alexis: What role does Lauren grow to play in Emanuel’s life?

Allison: It’s a little bit the other way around for this book. Lauren wants to help the kids in the afterschool, but really they are the ones who impact her life. I think that happens a lot with mission work, we want to help and then we get way more back than we ever gave out.

Alexis: What does Emanuel think of Lauren at first and as the story progresses?

Allison: She views her as someone who is sad and has “nerves” like Marta from home. He wants to make her feel better and is kind to her. I think as the story progresses, he sees her as a mentor and friend and someone he can confide in and learn from.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Finding Amor?

Allison: That everyone has a story. We often judge a book by its cover and as Christians, that’s not okay. We are called to love everyone, unconditionally. I hope that sticks with them.

Alexis: Who is your publisher for Finding Amor? Is it a CBA publisher?

Allison: CreateSpace/Me! I had to go indie because it is very hard to get diverse fiction published traditionally in the Christian market. Plus the undocumented immigration is seen as controversial and they didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. But God wants me to write it and get it out to the world, so I am thankful for Amazon and all my indie published friends who helped me figure out how to indie publish.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Allison! Would you like to share closing comments?

Allison: Alexis, thank so much for the insightful interview questions. I really challenged me to look at my book in detail. I feel totally prepared for some events I have coming up in September now! Thank you for this opportunity! I hope people pick up a copy and enjoy it!

*Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring, contributor


About the Book:

Escaping a violent and abusive environment, eight-year-old Emanuel Martinez attempts to cross through three countries to be with his mother, Ana, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. When la migra catches him at the border and he’s thrown into an immigration center, his dreams for being a real family start to disappear.

Vowing never to be like her own mother who abandoned her and never looked back, Ana has worked for six years to get her son to the United States, Now Ana has to rely on her distant mother and her alcoholic boyfriend, Carlos, to finally get her son to her side so they can build a life together.

When Lauren Barrett agrees to help with the afterschool program, she soon realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Growing up in an unsupportive home has made her insecure and vulnerable, plus suffering through years of infertility hasn’t helped matters. Yet she longs to do something meaningful with her life and wonders when that opportunity will come along. When a special young boy named Emanuel enters her life, he turns her worldview on its head.

As their lives intersect, will they help each other understand what family and love and home really mean?

Buy Allison’s book on Amazon


About the Author:

Allison K. Garcia is a Licensed Professional Counselor, but she has wanted to be a writer ever since she could hold a pencil.

She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Shenandoah Valley Writers, Virginia Writers Club, and is Municipal Liaison for Shenandoah Valley NaNoWriMo.

Allison’s short story, “At Heart,” was published in the Winter 2013 edition of From the Depths literary magazine, along with her flash fiction. Her work, “You Shall Receive,” was published in GrayHaven Comics’s 2014 All Women’s anthology. Winning an honorary mention in the ACFW Virginia 2015 short story contest, “Just Another Navidad” was published in A bit of Christmas. Allison finaled in the 2016 ACFW Genesis Contest and is a 2018 Eric J. Hoffer Montaigne Medal Finalist for Vivir el Dream, published May 2017. Her highly-anticipated novel, Finding Amor, releases in September 2018.

Latina at heart, Allison has been featured in local newspapers for her connections in the Latino community in Harrisonburg, Virginia. A member of cultural competency committees for work and a participant in several pro-immigrant rallies and other events in her region, she also sings on the worship team and enjoys get-togethers with the hermanos in her church. With the help of her husband, Julio, and their son, Miguel, she has been able to nurture her love for the Latino people.

Follow Allison on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Website

Sign-up for Allison’s Newsletter here.

Book Review: Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia

Happy Friday, diverse reader friends!

I’m excited to share my review of Vivir el Dream by Allison K. Garcia. You may have remembered I interviewed her Monday as we discussed her debut novel. Before I share my review, let’s check out the book.


About the Book

“Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


Review

Vivir el Dream gives us a realistic glimpse into the immigration struggle in the Hispanic community. Ms. Garcia weaves a tale giving the reader three view points.

Linda Palacios is an undocumented college student. Brought to the United States at the age of three, Virginia is all she knows. It’s her home and the community she lives in helps define her identity.

I loved how Ms. Garcia explored the prejudice and ignorance the outside world has regarding immigration. I loved getting to know Linda and see her strengths. She taught me so much.

Ms. Garcia also gives us the view point of Juanita, Linda’s mother. You get to see the reasons behind her decision to immigrate across the Mexican border into the U.S. My heat ached for her as bits and pieces of her story were slowly shared.

And Tim. I struggled between empathizing with his plight and being extremely annoyed (that’s the nicest thing I can say) about his prejudice and ignorance of the Latino community. As a fellow writer, I admire the depth Ms. Garcia went through creating his character. You can see the stereotypes that others believe through his eyes. I think he’ll be the eye opener for readers. Will they see similar prejudices and ignorance?

Vivir el Dream really made me think about the truth of “walking a mile in someone’s shoes.” This is a must read for all who want to understand another culture and widen their views.

*I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. This review is my own, honest opinion.


Review by Toni Shiloh

Author Interview: Allison K. Garcia

Happy Monday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages. I’ve got the lovely Allison K. García here to talk about her debut novel, Vivir el Dream. Let’s get started!


About the Book

The Blurb: “Linda Palacios crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Years later, Linda nears college graduation. With little hope for the future as an undocumented immigrant, Linda wonders where her life is going.

Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, has wondered the same thing. Overcome with despair, he decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he changes course when he finds a job as a mechanic. Embarrassed about working at a garage in the barrio, he lies to his wife in hopes of finding something better.

After Juanita’s coworker gets deported, she takes in her friend’s son, Hector, whom her daughter Linda can’t stand, While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, she loses her job and decides to go into business for herself.

Will the three of them allow God to guide them through the challenges to come, or will they let their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?”

Links: Amazon, Goodreads


About the Author

Allison K. García is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, Allison has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians.

Follow: Website, Facebook, Twitter


Interview

Toni: Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited to talk about your debut novel, Vivir el Dream. I get positively giddy when I talk about diverse Christian fiction, so I love that the majority of your characters are Hispanic. What made you decide to write about immigration in the Latino culture?

Allison: Thanks, Toni! I’m pretty giddy myself! I can’t remember exactly when I came up with the idea for the book. I just know that God placed it on my heart to write it after I had seen a lot of injustice with my hermanos at the church and with therapy clients and with my friends and family. I feel it is a topic that everyone has an opinion on but few know much about. I hoped to shed some light on why people come, what kinds of things they have to go through to get here, and what can happen once you’ve crossed the border. As I think back, I believe I was inspired in part by the deportation of a close friend from church.

Toni: I can only imagine how that would effect a person. I’m glad you used it to shed light on the subject. Vivir el Dream focuses on Linda, an undocumented college student; Juanita, her mother; and Tim, a Caucasian who has some prejudice towards the Latino race. How did you decide to focus on these three and provide them their own povs (point-of-view)?

Allison: I think I came back fresh from a conference where they told us that one POV wasn’t cool anymore, so it probably stemmed from that. I think this was the first story I wrote from more than one POV, but now I love it! I like the idea of it being like a movie with different camera angles, so you can see things from different people’s points of view. For me Linda is the central character so choosing her was a no-brainer. And I felt Juanita had important history that needed to be heard, and I wanted people to understand why she came and all they had to go through and how she carries the traumas with her. With Tim, I placed a lot of the covert racism that isn’t shown but is hidden under the surface for a lot of folks. Also when I started the book in 2012, it was in the midst of a lot of financial turmoil in the country, so I think some of that seeped in as well.

Toni: Camera angles, yes! That’s a perfect way to describe it. I loved how you did that. Did you fear that you would paint the Latino culture with stereotypes considering your own ethnic background?

Allison: I both love and hate this question. I love it because it is an important and hard question to ask. There are so many stereotypes out there for different people of color, I don’t want to add any more to the mix and it is something very much to be aware of. I also hate this question because as a white person in the majority, I know I need to tread carefully in this realm. Really, what I did was write with my heart. I just hope that I am enough enmeshed in the Latino culture with my husband and his family, with my church family, and with my friends, that I have accurately portrayed the beauty of Latino culture and the struggles that Latino people experience. It’s so hard because my heart wants me to be Latino, but deep down I know I’m only a white person with European roots and I can’t. I’m only on the outside looking in. So that’s a hard question for me.

Toni: But you answered it so eloquently. 🙂 What made you choose a Spanish title?

Allison: I went through a thorough choosing process. I wanted Dream in the title because of both The Dream Act and “the American dream.” I felt Vivir gave it a cool vibe and helped showcase the authenticity of Spanish language used within the book.

Toni: I love the title! What is the message you hope readers will leave with after reading Vivir el Dream?

Allison: That despite all the things going on in your life, God is there. He has a plan, and your faith in Him can carry you through.

Toni: Amen! How about some easier questions?

Allison: Yes, please! You put me on the spot before! Haha! But in a good way! It is good to have the experience of feeling singled out and put on the spot. Helps you understand others who experience it every day.

Toni: I like to just dive right into the diversity topic. 😉 Maybe I’ll use more finesse in the future, lol. Beaches or mountains?

Allison: I like beaches and mountains! I live in the Shenandoah Valley so the mountains are right there, but I still think I might choose beach!

Toni: They are both beautiful in their own ways. Coffee or Tea?

Allison: Normally I might say tea but I’ve gotten into coffee lately. So…both!

Toni: I recently started drinking ice coffee, so I hear you. TV or Movies?

Allison: Also both! I love bingewatching TV shows but I also love a good movie!

Toni: Netflix is my friend for both of those options. Last but not least, what’s next for you on your writing journey?

Allison: I plan to translate Vivir el Dream into Spanish (with the help of several native speakers)! I also have another completed Latino fiction book, Finding Amor, that’s ready for editing, plus I’ve written 6 out of 8 books of Prince Miguel and His Journey Home, a children’s fantasy series.

Toni: Wow! That’s awesome. Praying you success in your writing endeavors. Readers, do you have any questions for Allison?


Interview conducted by Toni Shiloh