Available in hardcover, paperback,
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Also in Spanish: Rumbo al Hermoso Norte
Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village--they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men--her own "Siete Magnificos"--to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.
After the torture of writing The Devil’s Highway and the turmoil of completing The Hummingbird’s Daughter, I needed a break. I might have stopped writing at all except for haiku and road journals if I didn’t owe the good folks at Hachette another book… or ten. So I set out to make myself happy. I confess: this book was utterly selfish. But I also thought that if I made myself laugh out loud every day, perhaps you would laugh too. And we all needed a laugh.
Still, I had made a vow to God a long time ago that I would keep elements of witness and service in everything I write. This being, for me, a spiritual journey rather than (sigh) a commercial one. So I worked very consciously to embed elements of social commentary, subversion, surprise and humanity in every part of the book. Some critics were harsh at first. Yes, I knew it was “no Hummingbird’s Daughter.” But I also thought it had some of the most humanitarian and provocative stuff in anything I’d ever written. The initial chuckles may have disguised that.
I was thrilled beyond belief that Latina magazine picked it as one of its best beach-reads. Frankly, I was enjoying a bit of pop-writing. I wanted a sunny book that went to the beach in a mesh bag and occasionally made the reader say, Hmmmm.
It felt subversive to make undocumented people the heroes of an American book. To make the three male heroes a gay man, a Mexican bowling alley janitor, and a scary cholo from the Tijuana municipal garbage dump. It also felt subversive to make the action-hero a 19 year old young woman undertaking a heroine’s journey—Mad Max and Beowulf have nothing on Nayeli!
Lately, people have been clamoring for sequels. It’s funny—time changes all careers. Now I’m not immediately known as “the author of Hummingbird,” but as the author of Beautiful North. Here’s what readers and a couple of critics (hello, Alan Cheuse) want to see: 1) the battle of Tres Camarones; 2) Tacho’s big gay wedding. YES!
I was pretty sure I had done something right when I was mocked for an hour by an atheist friend for putting so many ridiculous religious images in the book. Then, when I got home, I had a letter from a nice Illinois church lady chiding me for the anti-Christian bias in the book. For the record: this time I have to side with the atheist.