Allison's Book Bag

A Movie Reel in Her Head

Posted on: February 27, 2014

Gaudalupe_TeaserRead any debut novel of an author and you’ll often discover that it’s hugely autobiographical. Such is the case with Guadalupe Garcia McCall and her verse novel Under the Mesquite, which was named a William C. Morris Debut YA Award Finalist. I’ll post an interview tomorrow with McCall and a review of her book on Saturday. Save the dates: February 28-March 1!

Born in Mexico, McCall immigrated to the United States when only six. She grew up in Eagle Pass, a border town in South Texas. Eagle Pass is also the setting of Under the Mesquite, which was released in 2011 by Lee & Low Books. Although McCall told Lee and Low that the journey of her main character is only somewhat similar, she also notes that the setting had a lot to do with the way her book developed. She tried to keep the sense of how Mexico used to be. A lot of her family still frequent Mexico and she wanted to show that connection.

Growing up, McCall had many role models, but most especially her mother and her aunts. In the same way, the main character of Lupita finds her mother to be of huge inspiration. Later, while living in the United States, McCall also found role models in her teachers. According to Beyond the Pale Books, her third grade teacher admired her stories written in Spanish and always entered her work into school competitions, while her high school teachers encouraged her to publish.

McCall also had positive sibling relationships. Like her main character, McCall had five sisters and two brothers. Naturally, she fictionalized events, but she told YALSA that the emotional connections and siblings rivalries stem from her own childhood.

For McCall, the easiest part of adjusting to the United States was the language. She surmises to Lee and Low that she might have learned English quickly, due to being a linguistic learner by nature. As she grew older, her main struggle with English involved learning to speak with an American accent instead of a Mexican one. As in Under the Mesquite, it only took “a million Blow Pops to get the job done”. In her novel, McCall also describes Lupita’s struggle with dual homesickness, which is an emotion I’m well-acquainted. When on the American side Lupita wished for Mexico, but when on the Mexican side she eventually began to long for Texas.

In her teens, McCall used acting and drawing as a way to escape. Like her main character, she was an actress in high school. She competed in both acting and speaking events for her school. Unlike her main character who wrote poetry too, McCall also liked to draw. She would illustrate and frame the costumes for her school plays just for fun. Her drama teacher encouraged her to pursue a career in fashion. However, writing has always won out for McCall. She told Lee and Low, there’s always “a movie sequence developing” in her head.

Now McCall is both an author and an English teacher. When asked by Lee and Low about how she balanced both careers, she admitted, “It is most definitely challenging to keep the teacher separate from the writer, especially when I’m supposed to be teaching and the movie reel is going on in my head. What a bummer—not to be able to just drop everything and write!” I relate to how she feels, myself trying to live in both worlds. McCall also feels privileged to produce work that she can share with her students, that will both enrich their lives and help them find themselves in life.

McCall lives with her family, which includes three grown sons, in West Texas. She loves living the simple life in the country, where she be close to what she loves: nature. Besides teaching, she writes poems and novels. Much of her poetry, including her first poem, has been published in several literacy journals. She’s currently working on her third novel.

Read an autobiographical poem: 411 on the Muse

Read an interview with McCall: Morris Award Interview

Watch a trailer for Under the Mesquite: SchoolTube

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2 Responses to "A Movie Reel in Her Head"

Sounds like she’s had an interesting life! I’ll be back tomorrow and Sat. to read the interview and review!

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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