Posted by: Sarah | March 28, 2011

March, the Lamb: A Book Club Recap

Will March go out like a lion or a lamb?

I can’t remember how it came in, so I have to assume it was a docile arrival. The week’s weather forecast for West Texas is sunny and close to 80°, so it looks like March was start to finish warm and fuzzy. I’ll take it! I pray the next brings more blue skies and sunshine. It’s nice when the world outside smiles through my little window. I’ll need it as I park myself at my office desk and work away the next few weeks of spring. It’s hard to quantify the amount of work I have on my plate. It simply feels like an awful lot–a mountain as tall as the one cutting through the heart of El Paso. But I’ve climbed that mountain a few times and I’m always thankful I did. I never fail to discover something new. So it is with writing.

Along the journey, it’s always a treat to meet fellow travelers–book lovers and avid readers. It’s especially gratifying when those people feel as connected to my characters as I do. Last Thursday, I was invited to visit the Mission del Paso Book Club at El Paso Community College (EPCC). They’d just finished reading The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico, and I was honored to spend the afternoon with them. The group consisted of staff and professionals associated with EPCC. The lone, gracious male in the group happened to be the dean of the campus. What a fun day we had! With a feast on the table, good company, laughter, stories told, and lives shared, I felt like I was back on my grandpa’s veranda in Puerto Rico with neighbors, family and friends.

I was incredibly touched that so many of Verdita’s experiences were relatable to the women in our group that up until reading the novel had not openly expressed the emotions they lived as young women coming of age in a Latin/Hispanic culture. Decades and countries apart, these Mexican descendent readers and my Puerto Rican characters shared struggles and joys, moments that the world might deem “small” and “ordinary” events of growing up. However, these were BIG experiences for them at the time and even now, the echos of those memories linger in their lives. I don’t believe we always need a roar in our world for it to matter–a death, a tragedy, an earthquake of emotional or physical magnitude. Yes, these do make for exciting fiction, but so often I worry that my stimuli threshold is being pushed farther and farther.

In my personal world, a handful of friends have recently had babies (their firsts) and I watch as every day, every second, holds some new glimmer of amazement. Blades of grass never touched before. The sweetness of a peach. The brightness of light that doesn’t come from a bulb. They reach out and hold their breaths a beat in pure awe. They won’t remember those moments of discovery when they grow up, but they’ll probably remember the first time they tie their shoe without help, their first bike ride, their first kiss. These small, ordinary moments empower and shape us into the adults we become.

So it was an absolute delight to listen and discuss these happenings in Verdita’s story and in the lives of this group of readers. My compassionate male book clubber found it enlightening to witness this tale of maturity from the female side. It surprised him that so many of the women in the room said that things have changed but not by much. The taboos and stigmas Verdita encountered continue to exist… quietly. Other significant issues take center stage today: immigration laws, drug abuse, violence. ROARS in our world. So the ordinary struggles fade into the fabric of memory. Forgettable. Yet not the least bit forgotten. I’m glad the book club was able to give them voice. I’m glad these readers (female and male) were able to tell their stories in light of Verdita’s. To share with me and each other, ‘Yes, this happened to me too!’ and connect on a deeper level than they had before walking into the room–before reading the book.

Three days of March remain. I don’t need a lion to mark its exit. I think that old cat should sit back and let the lamb have the spotlight for a change.

Yours truly, Sarah


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