Heart-wrenching Tale of A Midwife in Puerto Rico, early 1900s

Today I have the rare pleasure of interviewing a famous blogger (The Writing Life) and soon to be famous author! Please enjoy this conversation with Eleanor Parker Sapia, author of the upcoming novel A Decent Woman.

Here’s a brief bio, and then…away we go!

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Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her passion for writing. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. A Decent Woman is her debut novel. Eleanor has two adventurous and loving grown children, currently lives in wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Thank you for having me, Claudia! I appreciate your kind invitation and the awesome opportunity to interview with you!

What is your book’s genre?

My book fits nicely in many categories, Caribbean Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Latina Fiction, and of course, Historical Fiction. My editor describes my book as a combination of Historical and Literary Fiction. A high compliment!

BOOK COVER SEPT 2014

Please give us a brief synopsis of A DECENT WOMAN.

Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in town.

 

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal, and preserve Serafina’s honor, her new marriage, and her place in the world.

 

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

What is the publication date of your debut novel, A DECENT WOMAN?

We are shooting for Spring, 2015. I’m very excited about the book launch, and can’t wait to hold a copy of my book!

What type of reader will enjoy your book?

Of course, I hope every person on this planet enjoys my debut novel! I believe readers who like books about history, women’s studies, early feminism, sociology, midwifery, alternative health practices, and healing practices, will enjoy A DECENT WOMAN.

Is your protagonist based on a real person?

Yes, the character of Doña Ana is based on my maternal grandmother’s midwife, Ana, who was present at the births of my mother, two aunts and my uncle. Not much is known about Ana’s background nor are there any known photographs of her. My grandmother thought she was Cuban, and my aunt thinks Ana was from the island of Martinique. My grandmother and Ana were life-long friends, so I had many family stories to work with, but it’s amazing no one knew more about Ana. I created a past and a life for her as the only midwife in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The characters Serafina and Antonio are loosely based on my maternal grandparents, and their very colorful marriage. My grandmother divorced my grandfather in the 1930’s, and they remained together (and happy!) in Puerto Rico until his death in 1983.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote the book for many reasons! I was born in Puerto Rico and love my island; many friends don’t know a lot about Puerto Rican history, and I wanted to share what I knew and discovered through my research. I like to think the book is my love letter to Puerto Rico, and a tribute to the women of the island, past, present and future. It’s an invitation for readers to discover the Puerto Rico I know and love through the eyes of Puerto Ricans who remained on the island. My story does not include the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States, about which many wonderful books are written.

Most importantly, there can never be enough diverse heroines in literature for me, and Ana Belén is a strong Afro-Cuban woman/heroine.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m happy you said ‘some’ because I have so many favorite authors! Current favorites are Barbara Kingsolver, Arundhati Roy, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Milan Kundera, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Isabel Allende, Jack Remick, and Cecilia Samartin.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing a second historical novel, FINDING GRACIA, based on my walk on the medieval pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago, The Way of Saint James, in Spain. I kept a journal on my walk, and always knew I’d write a book about my experiences. It’s the story of two women from very different walks of life who meet on the path, and learn important lessons about life, themselves, and their place in the world while searching for grace and forgiveness. This book should be out in summer 2015.

I’m also researching and writing the sequel to A DECENT WOMAN called MISTRESS OF COFFEE, also set in Puerto Rico. The book begins in 1927 with Serafina and her daughter Lorena, and for the first time I’m including a real historical figure–Lolita Lebrón, a Puerto Rican freedom fighter. I’m excited about both books.

Website?

www.elliesbookz.wordpress.com Check it out!

Where can we find your book when it comes out?

You’ll find my book wherever books are sold, and of course, on Amazon. If your bookstore doesn’t carry my book, ask for it, and they’ll order it for you!

Thanks so much for having me, Claudia! I’ve enjoyed my time with you!

When Art Matters #jesuischarlie

As a writer I join the thousands of voices responding to the horrors in France yesterday. I should be better at putting into words the anger and disgust I feel at the massacre of Parisian cartoonists and the two policemen who were gunned down with them at Charlie Hebdo. While the civilized world expresses its shock we marvel at the power of the cartoon to incite this unpardonable violence.

Once again we are reminded, art matters. Words matter, songs matter, pictures and theater and dance matter. We express the orthodox and the outrageous, the pedestrian and the political. When art challenges or offends it fulfills one of its missions. When art delights, soothes or comforts, when it enlightens or surprises, then too it fulfills its mission. And when human beings lose their lives for the right to create this art, art matters.

My son, an actor, has said he wants to create theater that matters. While he would love to make a living wage, his goal is to create, through performance, selection, production or education, art that changes the world. Maybe the world of one audience member, or maybe a nation, but ultimately a theater of change. To him, art has always mattered.

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis posted today, “If a little cartoon can threaten your belief system, get a new belief system.” Brilliant though he his, I must disagree in part with him. A cartoon should threaten your belief system, make you think and worry, infuriate you or challenge you. That’s its mission. Your belief system, if it’s any good, should be able to respond to the challenge, and you should be able to analyze, accept or reject the purported insight of the cartoon. But where we agree is that the cartoon matters.

To the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, art mattered. To the policeman responding to the gunshots, who too gave his life, service to his city and its citizens mattered. To Salmon Rushdie, to the Scandinavian cartoonists, to film-makers in the McCarthy era, to all of us as writers and artists, actors and policemen, lawyers and teachers, art is the change we want to see in the world. An MFA can be more powerful than an MBA. It’s all in how you use the weapon, isn’t it?