Critically-acclaimed author Veronica Chambers talks to us about her new YA novel The Go-Between, a high school dramedy that questions Mexican American immigrant stereotypes amidst a telenovela and Beverly Hills background.
The Go-Between comes out today, Tuesday, May 9, 2017! Here’s what author Veronica Chambers had to say about her novel’s mother-daughter love story, as well as the importance of finding joy and beauty in one’s cultural heritage:
Give us your elevator pitch for ‘The Go-Between’!
Cammi is the rich daughter of a telenovela actress. In Mexico City, everyone knows her Mom and her family. When they move to LA, Cammi discovers the joys of anonymity. She also realizes that the kids at her new fancy prep school think she’s a scholarship student from East LA. As she goes along with their assumptions, she begins to wonder: is she playing them or is she playing herself?
Where did the initial spark of your story stem from?
Initial spark for story came from me wanting to write a Latina mother-daughter story but in a totally different setting than one I’d ever created before.
You have a background as a television writer. How do you think your work in television has influenced your novel writing, particularly in regards to ‘The Go-Between’?
Writing for TV was a huge influence on this book, partly because you realize in casting what a vast gap there was between who people are and who they play. You sometimes see Shakespearan trained actors playing janitors. And at the same time, I’ve seen actresses who are really well known for playing wealthy, super cultured women come in and they are well, let’s just say the exact opposite.
In your book, Camilla’s mom is a telenovela star! Were you a fan of telenovelas growing up? If so, what are some of your favorite telenovelas?
My Mom and my abuelas watched telenovelas constantly. The thing is that they were so short, six months at a time — I never got attached to any one series. As a kid, I loved series— like Nancy Drew — I love following the same characters over a long, long arc.
Writing Camilla’s story requires an understanding of two very specific experiences — the “Rick Kids of Mexico City” perspective, as well as the Mexican-immigrant experience in Los Angeles. How did research play a role in your creative process while writing ‘The Go-Between’?
I definitely had to research parts of this. I studied in Mexico when I was in college but the Rich Kids of Mexico City wasn’t a phenomenon back then.
I’m from Panama but I’m very inspired by Mexico — always have been.
It means the world to me that Karla Souza, who stars in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, reads the audio of the book and that she loved it. She’s from Mexico and that it rang true to her — as well as to my own friends from Mexico City — means a lot.
Considering the current political climate in the United States regarding Mexican immigrants in particular, what do you hope young Latinx readers, or young adult readers in general, get from your book?
I finished The Go-Between over a year before this last presidential election. I seriously could never have imagined this particular climate. I hope that the book makes young readers question the stereotypes, but also more than anything, I hope readers of color feel emboldened by the message at the heart of the book which is that all immigrants may not be as wealthy as Cammi and her family, but our culture and our heritage is a rich, valuable inheritance that we bring wherever we go.
This novel explores the theme of racism by highlighting the stereotypes put upon Latinx immigrants. What do you think are some of the most important issues regarding diversity in the media and young adult literature today?
I just think we need more voices and more stories. And it’s okay if some of those stories poke fun at the issues. Not everything can and should be so serious. Laughter and humor is part of our legacy too.
You and your husband have endowed several scholarships to students in the fields of music and literature. Why is education, particularly education in the arts, so important to you?
Scholarships to writing programs and different arts programs gave me everything I have today. It created a tremendous sense of opportunity in my own life and helped bolster me against the hardship of my own situation so I could move forward with a sense of possibility and imagination. I have to try to give that back in every way that I can.
Finally: what makes you passionate about Camilla’s story?
I love that Camilla is trying to figure it out. We tell kids there are no stupid questions. But when you throw race in the mix, there are a lot of questions — some are painful to ask, some are painful to answer and we all say stupid things sometimes. I hope readers feel after reading Cammi’s story that it’s not about one moment or interaction, it’s about staying heart strong and moving forward. Like Maya Angelou used to say, when you know better, you do better.
About ‘The Go-Between’
Fans of Jane the Virgin will find much to love about The Go-Between, a coming-of-age novel from bestselling author Veronica Chambers, who with humor and humanity explores issues of identity and belonging in a world that is ever-changing.
She is the envy of every teenage girl in Mexico City. Her mother is a glamorous telenovela actress. Her father is the go-to voice-over talent for blockbuster films. Hers is a world of private planes, chauffeurs, paparazzi and gossip columnists. Meet Camilla del Valle — Cammi to those who know her best.
When Cammi’s mom gets cast in an American television show and the family moves to LA, things change, and quickly. Her mom’s first role is playing a not-so-glamorous maid in a sitcom. Her dad tries to find work but dreams about returning to Mexico. And at the posh, private Polestar Academy, Cammi’s new friends assume she’s a scholarship kid, the daughter of a domestic.
At first Cammi thinks playing along with the stereotypes will be her way of teaching her new friends a lesson. But the more she lies, the more she wonders: Is she only fooling herself?