Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
1- In your opinion, given studies such as this (americanimmigrationcouncil.org/), are America's current immigration enforcement methods doing more harm than good?
The most frightening aspect of our current immigration enforcement is how it continues to run its campaign against immigrants without much regulation or accountability from the law. Families are being ripped apart and imprisoned in what can only be described as modern-day concentration camps—often for profit. Congress needs to shut down ICE immediately and ensure freedom and permanent protection for all undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
One of the most dangerous aspects of this current agency is the manner in which it portrays undocumented people as being a threat to America and its security. That is simply NOT the case. America was founded by immigrants, for immigrants. Its diversity is a strength, not a weakness.
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
The best writing tip I could offer is to share your work with passionate readers. This could be a librarian, teacher, even that student who carries a book everywhere he/she/they go. Have them highlight the parts that they like. Do this with a few people. What you will find is that different people will find different strengths in your writing. Embrace these things. Much of my highlighted work involved my use of dialogue. Apparently, it is a strength of mine that I wasn’t even aware of. Since then, I make it a point to incorporate a lot if in my writing today. In simple terms, write to your strengths.
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
As a kid, I was a true space cadet, always daydreaming. I never really thought about it as being anything particularly useful or positive. But now, I’ve realized that I was writing stories and strengthening my creativity. So please, let kids day dream—it’s not a bad thing.
4- Catsup or ketchup? And what's the most unusual food you use that condiment on?
First things first, I always refer to it as ketchup. When I was little, my dad convinced me that “catsup” contained actual cat inside. So I made it a point to buy name brands that used that prefer spelling. With that said, I pour “ketchup” onto just about everything—excluding dairy products. That would be gross. Or would it? Hmm.
5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
I would definitely like to give a shout-out to @sarahscheerger , @ErinDealey , and my debut pals over at @Class2k20Books
6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in the California sun?
How about the quad area of the school where part of the book takes place?
7- How do you feel that ordinary people could best help the children in ICE's cages?
I would say that we must contact our government representatives and let them know that we will not allow this blatant disregard of international law. Our political leaders have a moral obligation to prevent families from being forcibly separated. And if they do not take appropriate action, then it is up to us to hold them accountable.
Another way would be to make financial contributions to groups like the ACLU who continue to fight for the rights of all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
8- What most motivates you to read a new book?
I would say it’s the storyline that gets me to open a book, but it’s the character development that keeps me reading. If I’m invested and connect with a character, then I will follow them on just about any journey. Discovering well-written characters is kind of like making a new friend and having them take you somewhere you haven’t been before.
9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name:Sarah Scheerger @sarahscheerger
Title: OPERATION FROG EFFECT
Love because: her book left me missing each and every one of her characters. It is expertly written.
That's one of the debut authors who joined our spotlight this year! Sarah Scheerger's interview
10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
Ironically, this would be Sarah Scheerger as well. We are each other’s biggest fan.
I believe it’s because we both value many of the same things and work with characters that have a lot of heart.
11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
Actually, I’m finding that people are connecting with totally different aspects of the book. Student’s are identifying mostly with the cultural aspects of the world building, while teachers are mostly connecting with the student-pupil relationship. Still others connect more with the loving dynamics of Efrén and his two little siblings. The book really does have something for everyone.
12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?
I want my readers to know that everyone’s story matters and that every single one of us is worthy of having a story told about us. Each of us is special with a unique view of the world. It is my wish that they discover the means by which to share it.
14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
I feel like that would be Max, who was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, which cause some cognitive delays to occur. His love for his brother (and food) is the source of many great scenes.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
The majority of my characters are Latino. It was my intent to bring some recognition to this often marginalized group. Like the main character, Efrén, the narrator code-shifts, switching languages from time to time. He attends a predominantly Latino school in a predominantly Latino community.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
Hands down, that would have to be Mr. John Schu’s blog: Watch. Connect. Read. John is a true advocate, connecting readers and authors together. He is incredibly supportive and goes out of his way to help everyone, regardless of what press they are working with.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
The biggest factor was being fortunate enough to meet and land representation from Deborah Warren of East West Literary. Her belief in me never faltered. It is because of her that I get to work with the amazing folk at HarperCollins.
18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?
I am a huge fan of readers (all readers—regardless of age) writing reviews. It’s probably the only way for authors to accurately gauge whether or not our work is connecting. That’s why I frequently have my middle school student write and share their reviews with peers.
19- Do you have a discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I know there is a lot of hate going around our country, and it seems to me, much of it stems from ignorance. It is a lot easier to hate things we don’t know than it is things familiar to us. In this case, it’s migrant families. So I invite everyone to step into this world to meet my students, my friends, and family. What you will find is that we have much more in common than we do differences.
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
This book was not an easy story to tell, but my twenty-plus years of teaching in a low-socioeconomic neighborhood helped supply the backdrop for this book. THIS STORY IS NOT MINE ALONE. It is that of many young students whom I have had the honor of working with over the years. I feel privileged to share this world with you.
I thank you for all the support you have given me in helping to BRING EFREN DIVIDED into the hands of those who need to read it most.
Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros