This week I spoke with Melinda Palacio, who wrote Ocotillo Dreams after living in Chandler, Arizona during the city's infamous migrant sweeps of 1997. At the end of what became known as the Chandler Roundup, hundreds of immigrants were arrested and deported.

1. What was the inspiration behind your book?

Months after I moved to Arizona in 1997, the immigration sweeps took place. It wasn't too far fetched to imagine myself being arrested and accused of being undocumented for walking in my neighborhood.


2. What books are on your night stand now?

Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion and Luis Urrea's Queen of America will take me through the rest of 2011. 


3. What are some of the best tools available for writers, especially those just starting out?

Read a wide variety of books and write. Join a writing group or class. Make yourself accountable to your writing. If you don't like classes and can learn the craft from a good book, find a colleague, someone you feel is a better writer than yourself to show your work to. Take yourself seriously, you are a writer. Publish your work online, in obscure magazines. Eventually, you will meet someone who appreciates the early work you dared to share. 



About Ocotillo Dreams:

Set in Chandler, Arizona, this riveting tale brings to life the social issues that arise from border policy and economic inequity. In Ocotillo Dreams we meet Isola, a young woman who inherits a Chandler home and relocates there temporarily. There she learns that her mother had lived a secret life of helping undocumented workers. Isola must confront her own confusion and sense of loyalty in a strange and unwelcoming environment. As she gets to know her mother from clues left behind, she grapples with issues of identity and belonging that lead her on a journey toward purpose in life and reconnection with her roots. 


About the author:

A 2007 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow, Melinda Palacio's chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won the 2009 Kulupi Press Sense of Place award. Her work has been widely anthologized, including Latinos in Lotusland, New Poets of the American West, Maple Leaf Rag III & IV, and Southern Poetry Review IV.  


Purchase your copy of OCOTILLO DREAMS online,


Campaign update:

If you contributed to the 40K in 40 days campaign at the PUBLISHER, AGENT, EDITOR, or AUTHOR level, you will receive your "Got Libros?" shirt by December, thank you for your contribution! 


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Grounded in Latino culture, La Casa Azul Bookstore is dedicated to providing cultural, and educational programs via literature and art in East Harlem.
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