Hello there readers! I’m back from winter break and I am delighted to introduce this month’s featured author, Skila Brown. Brown is the author of Caminar, this month’s selection for our monthly book group. The novel reflects some themes that we intend to address through the blog this month including human rights and immigration.
Her first completed novel, Brown worked on Caminar while she completed her MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. The book is about the tragic experience of a young boy from Guatemala whose community is massacred. In an interview with S.L. Duncan, Brown said, “I was inspired to write this book after many trips to Guatemala and much reading about its history, specifically the conflict that occurred there just a few decades ago. What happened there was tragic, and I was upset that it was something I’d known nothing about…I wanted to make sure more people knew about what happened.”
The book is written in free verse poetry form, and as an added element Brown plays around with the form, shape and word placement of the poems to invoke deeper meaning. The simplified writing helps make this tragic story accessible to young readers. She describes the process in an interview with Smack Dab in the Middle: “This story lived in my head for a long time and was trying desperately to come out, but I wasn’t listening. I was also unsure how to tell it really. And then I started writing down some poems and realizing maybe verse was the way to go. Telling the story through poems felt like it allowed a place for things unspoken, that it gave the reader some space to absorb and make sense of the violence in the story.”
After writing the novel, Brown spent time in Guatemala, where she continued to revise it. One of the most challenging aspects was making a decision about language and whether to include an indigenous language. So as to not confuse the English-speaking reader, she settled for using Spanish. Caminar thus features terms in Spanish, as Brown has brilliantly and carefully dispersed them throughout the poems. She also includes a glossary at the end of the book.
Brown now resides with her husband and three sons in Indiana. She has two upcoming publications: With The End In Sight, another novel in verse, about Mary Ann Graves, one of the survivors of the ill-fated Donner party, and her family’s wagon train journey from Illinois to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846 (Fall 2015); and Slickety Quick, a picture book blend of poetry and non-fiction, all about sharks (Spring 2016).
Check out Skila Brown’s website for more information about the author.