The Year I Flew Away is author Marie Arnold’s middle grade debut filled with magic, heart, and hope. When 12-year-old Gabrielle is sent to the United States by herself, she faces a mountain of challenges not knowing English and blatant discrimination. When she meets a neighborhood witch who grants her three wishes, Gabrielle decides to use her wishes to make her transition to life in the United States easier. But the cost of her wishes is more than she could ever expect and Gabrielle is faced with the challenge of saving everything she holds dear.
As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant who was sent to the United States by himself, I (Adrianna Cuevas) deeply connected with Marie’s story and how well it portrayed the immigrant experience, particularly the struggle of finding balance between fitting in and preserving your culture. I was excited to interview Marie and dive further into her writing process and inspiration.
Here we go with a Fast Five for Marie Arnold!
While The Year I Flew Away is your middle grade debut, you have written other books for teens and adults. What prompted you to tell a story geared for younger readers?
I think that immigrants have been vilified lately and it’s important for the kids to know that being an immigrant is a good thing. It’s important to stress that our differences are also our strengths.
As writers, we are often told to ‘write what you know.’ Did drawing from your own personal history to inform your story provide any challenges?
Yes! TYIFA is basically based on my life when I first came to this country. We just added a little magic. : )
What influenced you to incorporate magical elements into Gabrielle’s journey rather than tell a purely contemporary story?
I love magic! I write teen fantasy and magic is always the fun part. Also, magic is a big part of Haitian culture.
Gabrielle asks the witch for the ability to be understood. What would you ask for if you were given this opportunity today as an adult?
I would ask for the same thing!
What advice do you have for young people who are interested in pursuing storytelling as a career?
Keep writing. Don’t think of it as a hobby, think of it as an actual craft. You only get better by continuing to do it.
About The Year I Flew Away:
It’s 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is excited to be moving from Haiti to America. Unfortunately, her parents won’t be able to join her yet and she’ll be living in a place called Brooklyn, New York, with relatives she has never met. She promises her parents that she will behave, but life proves to be difficult in the United States, from learning the language to always feeling like she doesn’t fit in to being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to speak English perfectly and be “American,” she makes the deal. But soon she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and, along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat), takes on the witch in an epic battle to try to reverse the spell.
Gabrielle is a funny and engaging heroine you won’t soon forget in this sweet and lyrical novel that’s perfect for fans of Hurricane Child and Front Desk.
Get your copy of The Year I Flew Away here: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780358272755