I first heard the name, Rene Colato Lainez, when he asked me to be part of the blog tour for My Shoes and I, a story about a boy who crosses the country with his father to visit his mother. Each page in the story illustrates the wear and tear of his shoes with each passing obstacle.
Rene’s stories reflect a true depiction of immigrant life with a child-like sense of wonder and innocence. They are both entertaining and enlightening.
So when I received an email from Rene asking if I would like to participate in another blog tour for his newest book, From North to South, I only had one question to ask: When can I start?
Like his previous book, From North to South is about a boy traveling with his father to visit his mother. Only this time, the boy is traveling south to Tijuana, Mexico.
The story begins with Jose jumping with joy at the thought of visiting his mother in Mexico after she had been deported from the states a while back. Jose and his father go through bumper-to-bumper traffic and cross the gate separating Mexico from U.S. soil.
Jose visits his mother at a refuge for deported women and children. There, he spends his time meeting her friends, eating her warm tortillas, and planting seeds in a can.
By the end, Jose asks his mother when she will return to the states to be with him.
This was an endearing story. Again, Rene was able to reflect the emotional difficulties of deportation—an issue that is still rampant today—with pure ingenuity and intriguing wonder.
Below is an interview with Rene Colato Lainez.
1. I understand that most of your stories come from your own immigrant experience. Is that where From North to South came from?
The idea to From North to South came from my classroom. One day I found a child crying because her father was deported to Mexico. I had a discussion with all my kindergarten students and they also knew about a relative, friend or neighbor who had been deported. I know the fear about being deported too. I was an illegal immigrant for eleven years. It is really scary to walk in the streets when you know that from any corner an immigration officer may appeared. I remember the day when I went to a fieldtrip to Sea World, San Diego. In the way back to Los Angeles, I prayed to all the saints in heaven to become the school bus invisible to the immigration officers’ eyes. My prays were heard and I arrived safely to Los Angeles. My mother and father were waiting for me.
2. One thing I found particularly interesting was the planting of the seeds. Is this an important key element in the story? If so, what?
The process to immigrate to the Unites States is long. It may take years for a person to get the right immigration papers. The seeds represent the children who are waiting for their parents. Now they are little seeds but with time, affection and care one day they will become big beautiful flowers. When this day arrives, they will be happily together like in the last page of From North to South.
3. At the end, you added one final scene—the dream of Jose that he has during the ride home. I understand that this dream acts as a symbol of fervent hope that his family will once again be reunited. Was this always part of the story, or did you add that in during the publication process? Why didn’t you end it with Jose falling asleep while listening to his mother’s story?
Actually the dream scene was one of the first scenes that I wrote. I usually write the beginning and the end of the stories and then I work in the middle. I always want to know where I am and what will be my final destination. Ending the book after the mother kiss José in the forehead when he falls sleep would work but I wanted to end with a more positive image. The dream brings hope for the future. Jose knows that one day he will be with his mamá in their house in San Diego.
4. Were there any other scenes that didn’t make the final cut in this story? Can you tell us about some of them?
All the scenes make the final cut in the story. I did not have the introduction of the book and my editor asked for it. It was a delight for me writing because the author and teacher are telling the reader more about the story and Centro Madre Assunta.
5. One of the hardest things for a writer is coming up with the title. How did you finally settle on From North to South? Did you consider any other title?
El norte is a synonym for the United States. Many Latinos dream to make the long trip from South to North in order to achieve the American dream. But in my story my characters were making the journey in the opposite direction. They live in the north and need to go south to visit José’s mother in Tijuana. I had the title since my first drafts.
6. How is From North to South different from My Shoes and I?
Both books are about immigration. In My Shoes and I, I am telling my own immigrant journey crossing three borders from south to north in order to arrive to the United States.
It is a journey of arriving into “the promised land.”
From North to South is about going back to the native country. It is the story of José’s mother who was deported to Tijuana and now José and his papá are traveling from North to South to Centro Madre Assunta to visit her.
7. What do you hope children will learn from reading your stories? What do you hope parents will learn? Who is your intended audience for From North to South?
I want children to read realistic and authentic stories. After reading From North to South, I want my readers to have hope for the future. Children who are not familiar with the immigration dilemma will learn a little more about a child who had to cross a border in order to see his mother. For parents this book can lead them to have a discussion with their children about immigration and its complications.
My first intended audience is children and families who are waiting for someone who had been deported but also my audience is the all society worldwide. People talk about the illegal immigrants who had been deported but what about their children who stayed behind?
8. I understand some of the profits go to Centro Madre Asunta. Can you tell us a little about that?
Centro Madre Assunta is a refuge for immigrant women and children in Tijuana, Mexico.
Every day they received between 400 and 500 immigrants who are deported back to Mexico. El Centro provides shelter, food, medical and immigrant assistance to all the immigrants. They always are in need of donations. The profits from From North to South will provide some assistance for these women and children.
9. What is your next writing project?
My new project is about two boys living in two cultures. They will play, eat, dance and have fun in two languages and two cultures. It is great to share all the wonders that two cultures can offer us.
Thank you, Rene!
Please be sure to check out some of his other work at http://renecolatolainez.com/
Visit the other stops on this tour.
Friday, Oct. 1 –
http://adrianadominguez.blogspot.com (Voces) Adriana Dominguez
Monday, Oct. 4-
http://www.mamalatinatips.com (Mamá Latina Tips) Sylvia Martínez
Tuesday, Oct. 5 -
http://www.dianebrowningillustrations.com (Out of the Paintbox) Diane Browning
Wednesday, Oct. 6 –
http://www.christinarodriguez.com/blog (Christina Rodriguez) Christina Rodriguez
Thursday, Oct. 7 –
http://loricalabrese.blogspot.com (Lori Calabrese) Lori Calabrese
Friday, Oct. 8 –
http://www.examiner.com/latino-books-in-national/mayra-calvani (Examiner) Mayra Calvini
Monday, Oct. 11-
http://www.childrensbookpress.org/blog (Many Voices, One World) Children’s Book Press