The other day I said that if you know your audience and you write a good book for that audience, I am of the firm belief that a reading audience will find you and your work.
In fact, my book The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez epitomizes this in a very real world way. Essentially, The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez is a coming of age story about a Latina teenager. Here’s how it begins…
I was born in the United States of America. That makes me legal.
Pero mis padres jumped the border to get here. That makes them illegal.
I have documents.
I speak English.
I have a social security number, a passport and a license to drive.
They don’t. They don’t. They don’t.
Actually, mi Papi does have a social security number. 3 of them. You can buy them for fifteen dollars apiece down at the taqueria.
I know it’s wrong but it’s not like he’s doing anything different from anyone else. One vato down the block has fourteen different sets of official state identification cards like he’s the Mexican James Bond or something. That would be funny, James Bond-zales, Agent Double OSiete.
Maybe I shouldn’t write about that. After all, I don’t want to get mi Papi in trouble. He only came here for opportunity.
In Mexico, opportunity doesn’t exist. There’s too much poverty. If a person isn’t born rich it’s almost impossible for them to make a living and support their family — so mi Papi jumped the border. He hired coyotes, fought off bandidos, bribed Policias and nearly lost his right hand from poison when he was bit by a yellow scorpion in the middle of the desert.
All that to provide a better life for his children. All that for me.
Now I know I don’t write so good. But I’m a Latina. A first generation Latina — or “Hispanic American” or “chicano immigrant” or “wetback puta”, whatever you want to call me. And people should hear the truth. The real truth.
About my secrets. (Secrets which no one has ever heard before.)
I apologize in advance if my book stinks. Like I said, I know I don’t write so good. Yet still, I think my story is important. And some parts are juicy. There is sex and violence and drugs. I know people who read books like that kind of stuff. But there is love too. In my opinion, love stories are the best of all.
But most important, there is truth. And sometimes la verdad — the truth — can save your life.
Look, Hollywood blockbuster book-to-movie starring Brad Pitt this is not. But that’s not to diminish this book at all. The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez is a book about a girl with heart, a girl facing daunting odds, a girl who is in love with her family and is at war with her family all at the same time. It’s an underdog tale and while it never hit the NY Times Bestseller list, there are scores and scores of kids – Hispanic teens, especially – who are absolutely gigantic fans of this book.
In fact, I am penning this piece during a break between student assemblies where I am the guest author at a school in South Texas; they have brought in the author – me – to fire up the crowd, meet a real life writer, sign books and so on since the book has been so, so, so well-embraced by their kids. If hoity-toity middle-aged divorcees in Beverly Hills don’t feel a hunger to read my book, I don’t feel all that crestfallen. They have different tastes. But if the Hispanic teen kids in South Texas don’t feel a hunger to read this book, then I feel disappointed because in my author heart I know I missed my mark and haven’t well-served the audience I was hoping to reach.
Yet, I didn’t miss my mark. I have fan letters galore, I have pictures up the wazoo with kids who think The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez is the cat’s meow and all in all, by writing for a specific, well-defined-in-my-mind audience, what I’ve really done is published a success.
Now, does it have to sell like Stephan King for me to consider it as such? More on that in the next post…