In this guest post, author Guadalupe García McCall unravels the personal and shared traumas and experiences of women that inspired her newest novel. Echoes of Grace will be published August 16 and is available for pre-order now.
How do you write the unthinkable? How do you take the memories of traumatic experiences and write about them with compassion and dignity, with love and concern? How do you expose the hardship of generational traumas both lived and witnessed without wounding those we love? These were some of the questions I asked myself as I was writing Echoes of Grace.
It all began in 2012, when a young woman lost sight of her two-year-old nephew and his mother ran him over in their driveway. The news rocked our small, rural community of Somerset, Texas. I remember my two college-aged sons coming home that weekend and asking me if I’d heard about the tragedy. Heard? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Those poor young women, I kept saying. How will they ever get past this? How will they ever recover? And why was this young mother in this situation? Why couldn’t that child be in daycare? Where were the organizations and government assistance programs that could have made this young mother’s life easier, that child’s life safer?
The more I talked about it with my sons, the more upset I became. Worried about me, my son asked why this was making me so mad.
Because that could have been me, I admitted. I was both that young mother and that sister on the porch.
It’s true. In the late 1980s, my husband and I were living with my sister in a tiny, run-down house with our two toddlers while we all went to college. We used to walk to campus with our sons tucked inside one stroller and sit in the student center, taking turns watching the boys while we all rotated through our day’s classes because we couldn’t afford day care. It was a small university in a small town in West Texas, and there were no government programs, no community outreach, no school-funded daycare center available to us. We were on our own, trying to change our stars the only way we knew how: by relying on each other so that our children could have a better life someday.
How many times did I take my nephew’s life in my hands? How many times did my sister hug me tight, kiss me hard, and tell me to take care of my nephew, a worried, stressed-out look on her face? Too, too many times.
What frustrated me the most that day in 2012 was the fact that, in over twenty years (now over thirty), the situation hadn’t changed one bit. When it comes to government assistance for young mothers struggling to get through college in our community (in our country!), the needle hasn’t moved an inch!
I dealt with my sorrow, my anger, my pain the only way I know how: by letting my pen do the exploring, the expunging, the exposing. At first, there were only snippets of dialogue, distorted images, and the occasional poem. I wrote them down and placed them in a file called “Gracefully Letting Go” because Grace was an enigma—a puzzle—I didn’t quite understand. She gave me so little to work with, but she was always there, sharing tiny pieces of her wounded heart with me. I took them and stored them for her; bore witness and took care of her story.
The years went by, and in 2016 I had to submit an idea for my thesis novel at the University of Texas at El Paso. Grace’s voice came back to me—haunting but real, sad but determined. So, I listened and started writing the novel. The narrative itself was a compilation of bizarre images, raw poems, convoluted dialogue sequences, and strange scenes at first. But then, as with all mysteries, other characters started showing up, giving me their own points of view. I saw that I was dealing with family traumas, but not just mine and my sisters (Mercy is a combination of three of my sisters), but other people’s too.
However, when the gothic elements, ghosts, and specters, started making their appearances, I knew there was so much more to the story. I wasn’t just writing about old, abandoned houses and dark, foreboding characters. I was writing about generational traumas; things that my mother, my tías, and my abuelas had to deal with as they made their way in the world. Neglect, abuse, and crimes against women, including femicide, are the real topics Grace wanted me to write about.
So, the mystery of writing with Grace began to unravel itself on the page, bringing with it all kinds of stories from the past, both personal and witnessed. And though I was scared, and often confused, I couldn’t give up on it. Grace had opened my eyes to how the injustices created by a brutal patriarchal society still echo in every corner of our world. She gave me the courage to talk about something that is important to us all— the need for social justice for women everywhere.
I hope this book moves us to action because we need to revisit, renew, and continue to improve laws to provide protection for all women, including immigrant and Native American women. I hope this book elicits conversations that bring about real change—powerful change—because we must prioritize making this world a fair and safe place for all women, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
or through your favorite Latinx-owned bookshop!
Guadalupe García McCall is the best-selling author of Summer of the Mariposas and won the Pura Belpré Award for her first novel, Under the Mesquite. She was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a young girl, keeping close ties with family on both sides of the border. She is a full-time author and abuelita and lives with her husband in South Texas. Find her online at ggmccall.com.