It's about that time! We are less then a week out from the release of Indivisible by Daniel Aleman and let me tell you, when this book came across my twitter feed I was immediately interested. I'm forever looking for books that are putting a missing perspective out there, especially ones that my middle school students can see themselves in. Beyond being excited for the book, I'm also extremely lucky to have had the chance to interview Aleman in advance of Indivisible's release. Keep reading to see Aleman's thoughts on writing Indivisible, who inspires him, and more!
Indivisible is out May 4th. There is still time to pre order or make a plan to hit up your local book store to grab a copy next tuesday. Check out Aleman's website for more Indivisible content and links to pre order!
Massive thank you to Aleman for taking the time to answer our questions!
First, can you tell us about yourself and why you got into writing?
I would say that I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. From the moment I could hold a crayon, I would make drawings on a piece of paper and then tell my mom the story behind whatever I had drawn. I went on to write short stories at age seven or eight, and full-length novels by the time I was a teenager. Writing has always been such an intrinsic part of who I am. Whenever I’m working on a story, I feel as though I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, and to me, that is the best feeling in the world.
Your book Indivisible deals with some big issues, including what it’s like to be an immigrant in America. As a librarian in an inner city school I see students dealing with issues like this all the time, but we don’t often see their perspective presented in books. Why did you decide to tackle these topics in Indivisible?
There is plenty in Indivisible that comes from me and my own family. As an immigrant from Mexico myself, I haven’t always felt as though media accurately portrays my perspective on what it means to be an immigrant. That is why, with Indivisible, I wanted to write a book that felt human, emotional and sincere, and which focused purely on the experiences of a family. Immigration tends to be a very political topic, and so I wanted to break through that with a story that addressed these issues from a purely human and compassionate lens.
Can you tell us about your writing process? What parts do you enjoy the most, what do you struggle with, did you have to do a lot of research, etc?
Drafting has always been my favorite part of the writing process. I find that telling the story for the first time is when the characters feel most alive to me, which is incredibly exciting. With that said, nowadays most of my time is spent editing, which I have also learned to love. There is something immensely satisfactory about watching the story take shape and come closer to what I’d originally envisioned when I first started writing it.
Was there anything you wanted to include in Indivisible, but had to leave out because it just didn’t fit?
Definitely! There were plenty of scenes that didn’t make it into the final book, though I’m convinced that cutting each of those moments was the right decision. There used to be a scene that took place on the Fourth of July, in which Mateo, the main character, attended a party with his friends. I loved this moment because we got to see his friends in a completely new light, but we ultimately felt as though the story flowed much better without it. Perhaps I’ll share it on my website eventually!
Why do you think readers need books like Indivisible?
I adore Rudine Sims Bishop’s essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” where she discusses how books can serve as a mirror for kids who haven’t always found themselves in literature. I think this is incredibly powerful, and I hope that readers whose lives are similar to Mateo’s are able to find pieces of themselves in this story, and feel a little less alone as a result.
At the same time, fiction can be a window into the lives of people wo may be different from ourselves. Books can help us build empathy and open our eyes to the struggles, hopes, dreams, and experiences of others. That is why I think it’s important for all readers to have access to diverse stories.
If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be?
“Keep going.” The path to publishing a book can be incredibly tough a times, especially because writers are faced with a great amount of rejection, so I truly believe that perseverance is the single most useful quality that aspiring writers must have. Like all authors, I managed to push through all the uncertainty and rejection to get to where I wanted to be, but I feel like my younger self may have needed to hear these words a couple of times: “Keep going, and you will get there.”
Who do you look to for inspiration?
With this book in particular, I looked to my own family for inspiration. Much like Mateo’s parents, my own mom and dad have worked incredibly hard to build a better future for me and my siblings, which is something that I wanted to portray on the page.
What books do you consider to be “do not miss” titles?
I think Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez is incredible. I’m re-reading it currently, and I absolutely love its strong protagonist, lovable side characters, and feminist themes. In terms of books that haven’t come out yet, some of the titles I am looking forward to are Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June, and Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua.
Bonus Info! Aleman references Rudine Sims Bishop's essay "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors" - this is an excellent essay and a must read for anyone who works with kids and books, especially is you have the ability to choose the books that students have access to. You can read the essay here.
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