Interview with Bettina Restrepo (and giveaway)

27 March 2011

Today I have with me, the wonderfully introspective author who kindly answered my questions relating to her novel, Illegal.
A promise.
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceaƱera.
Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience
1.How was your experience at McDonalds ^_^? 
McDonald's taught me that I wanted to pursue my education because standing on my feet all day smelling like grease would not be fun. For a while, I was obsessed with marketing. I wanted to design the toys that went inside the Happy Meals!

2. How do you feel about immigration? 
My mother is German and my father is Colombian. They immigrated to the US back in the sixties. I have spent my entire life traveling back and forth and feeling like a fish out of water. I remembered getting so upset one day when I was filling out a scantron and they asked my ethnicity – I didn’t know what box to fill in.
I used those emotions to guide Nora into her foreign world - Houston.

The US, as most countries, have a convuluted system in need of reform. The US system, through it's complexity, almost encourages immigrants to go off the radar.

3. How or what did you do to research about Illegal?
I used to be an auditor at a chain of ethnic grocery stores, Fiesta Mart, Inc, headquartered in Houston, Texas. I drove around the city visiting the stores on a daily basis. I came to know the clientele and their financial life cycle very well.

Many immigrant customers would arrive with their weekly paychecks. After paying their utilities bills (overdue), a bag of bus tokens, and sending a few hundred dollars abroad (via Western Union), I would watch them walk into the grocery store and carefully pick out their groceries. When they went through the checkouts, they only had enough money left in their pockets to exchange for quarters (for the laundry mat). It was a vicious cycle of survival.

I found Nora at Fiesta Mart on Quitman Avenue. A girl standing on the side of the road staring at the grocery store. Her face haunted me. I wanted to know her story. How did she come to stand on that corner? Where was her family? Was she hungry?

4. Why did you decide to write Illegal? What was your motivation? 
My motivation was to tell one story of hope. Perhaps people might think differently about immigrants, but the focus was really on Nora and her struggle and how she finds her voice.

5. Do you like the smell of old books or new books? 

An old book. Specifically the way my mother's old hymnals smell and the way the pages crackle when you turn them.

6. When did you consider becoming an author and why? 
I couldn't stop myself. If I were a much more reasonable person, I would go back to accounting. Be a writer is a terrible way to make a real salary. But - someone must write the stories, so I volunteered!

Thanks Mrs. Restrepo for the interview! And, in addition to this, Mrs. Restrepo is also giving away signed bookmarks to two lucky winners.

U.S. Only
Ends 4/6/11
Fill out form below!

4 thoughts:

  1. Great interview Kirthi! :) I love the smell of books too! But I love the new book smell better - less dusty-smelling.

  2. Great interview! It's really sad that people have to struggle like that.

  3. I like this layout Kirthi, It fits you

  4. Thanks for hosting me Kirthi!


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