We’re finishing our #NewBooksNewVoices celebration on a very strong note: Alexandra Villasante’s debut! We’ve been celebrating all the amazing debut books hitting shelves this year and this week we’re reading Alexandra’s stunning debut The Grief Keeper, a timely and heartfelt speculative narrative about healing, faith, and freedom. Scroll down to hear from Alexandra about her debut!
The Grief Keeper follows sisters Marisol and Gabi Morales as they flee violence in their home country of El Salvador, and make the perilous journey to the United States, seeking asylum.
They are detained by ICE at the border and eventually brought to a detention center where Marisol is given chance to explain why she and her sister should be allowed to stay in the United States.
But the interview doesn’t go as Marisol hoped, and even more distressingly, she finds out that the family friend who would have sponsored the girls has died. They flee the low-security detention center and meet an ex-immigration officer who offers them a way to stay in the country. Marisol must take part in a clinical trial for a device that transfers grief from one person to another – thereby becoming a grief keeper. It’s experimental and risky, but if it will keep Gabi safe, Marisol will risk everything – even her heart.
Though the sister relationship is at the core of The Grief Keeper, ultimately, it’s about Marisol coming to accept herself as a queer person, and realizing that she is deserving of love.
I never wanted to be a writer. I went to art school for painting, then graduate school for combined media. Though I enjoy the visual arts, the truth is, I just want to tell stories. It took me a long time to realize that the best way I can tell stories is through words, not paint. Though I still love to paint in my not-so-spare time.
The Grief Keeper is the fourth book I’ve written and the first to be published. I look at my unpublished books, which will never see the light of day*, as a do-it-yourself MFA program. I learned how to write, and how to find my own voice through writing those books. Every book I write contains worlds and characters that teach me who I am and who I want to be. If you haven’t heard, writing is hard – but it’s also magical.
I’m so grateful for my Putnam/Penguin team – from my boss editor, Stacey Barney, to publisher Jen Klonsky and every lovely person in between, they’ve welcomed me into the PRH family.
*well, never say never.