Kathie: Welcome to Fast Forward Friday, Alda! I’m happy to have a chance to talk with you about your upcoming MG debut, BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA, which comes out September 14th from Sourcebooks for Young Readers. Can you tell us a bit about it, please?
Alda: I’m a huge fan of Middle Grade Village and I’m just thrilled to be interviewed by you. Thank you! Now, about my book. Petra Luna is a twelve-year old girl who makes it her purpose to keep her family safe in the middle of war and chaos. Despite the turmoil and suffering around her, she remains faithful to her dreams of learning to read and write and to a promise she made to her father before he was forced to fight in the war.
Kathie: Your book takes place in northern Mexico in 1913, and your great-grandmother’s story is the inspiration for it. What was it like to research and verify the family history you heard as a child.
Alda: My goodness, I spent months reading everything under the sun that had been written about the Mexican Revolution, and the day I found out that my family’s story had been true and accurate all along, will be one I’ll forever remember. Ever since, I became much more grateful for my family stories, knowing they were not exaggerations. Also, through the many photographs I came across in my research, I saw, learned, and appreciated all that my family had gone through – the harsh poverty, the prejudices, the violence – and the enormous effort and sacrifice they made to give me a better life. After completing my book, I felt closer to them than ever before.
Kathie: Your main character, Petra, endures some extremely difficult circumstances, yet her resilience is inspiring. If you could give her one piece of advice, what would it be?
Alda: You’re stronger than you think – you’ve got this!
Kathie: This will be the first time many people will learn about this event in history, yet the topic of individuals departing Mexico for the United States is still relevant today. What do you hope young readers will learn from your story?
Alda: During my research, I came across many black and white photographs that showed the masses of impoverished people escaping the violence in Mexico in 1913. In one old photograph, I saw numerous families wearing ragged clothes, walking along railroad tracks, all with fearful and exhausted faces. Not long ago, in a newspaper, I saw a recent picture full of color that showed families wearing different clothes but with the same fear and exhaustion on their faces. They too walked along railroad tracks. I placed both old and new photos side by side and was shocked to see the similarities, despite both having been taken 100 years apart. I did the same with pictures taken at refugee camps – like the one my great-grandmother had stayed in. The similarities are incredible. With my book, I want readers to realize that history tends to repeat itself. The Mexican Revolution came to be because of the great disparities the impoverished masses faced. The economic disparities, wide social gaps, and prejudices that exist in our world today could lead to new wars if left unchecked, just like they did in Mexico in 1913. When readers step into a story’s history, they can see how some things transcend time and places.
Kathie: What’s one thing you learned while writing this book that you’re glad you now know?
Alda: Through my research I witnessed the immense resilience people, especially women and children, had during the Mexican Revolution. Through their stories I learned about the different roles women filled. Some followed their husbands and sons to war, making sure they were fed and taken care of, while other women joined the ranks and trained as soldiers, achieving ranks as high as general. Children too, as young as twelve, joined the ranks of the rebels and were treated as equal comrades despite their age. The women and children who were too old or too weak to fight, like Petra and her family, bravely faced the harsh elements of the desert and crossed it against all odds to reach the safety of the U.S. That resilience is one that made me see my circumstances, especially during the COVID pandemic, in a different light and made me appreciate the many blessings in my life.
Kathie: Has your writing routine changed during the pandemic, and if so, how have you adapted?
Alda: To be honest, I’ve never really had a writing routine. The only thing that changed during COVID was the amount of time I had available for writing since homeschooling took a big chunk of it. Lucky for me, my kids returned to school in October but I can imagine how difficult it was for the families who had to homeschool for an entire school year.
Kathie: Do you have another writing project on which you’re working right now?
Alda: I do! Currently, I’m working on Book 2, the follow-up to Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. This story follows Petra and her family to a refugee camp in Eagles Pass, Texas and then to San Antonio where 30,000 refugees settled during that time. I’m also working on the Spanish translation of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna and will soon record the Author’s Note for the audio book. I’ve also been kicking around the idea of a picture book and a historical YA. Stay tuned!
Kathie: Where can our readers go if they want to learn more about you and your writing?
Alda: You can visit my website at www.aldapdobbs.com and see the resources I offer (educator’s guide, videos, music playlists, etc.) that follow Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna and help students better understand the Mexican Revolution. I also offer a quarterly newsletter where I give writing/publishing advice, share my favorite kid lit books, and offer behind the scenes material. You can also find me on Instagram at @aldapdobbs, and on Facebook at Alda P. Dobbs.
Kathie: I really appreciate you answering some questions for me today, Alda. Thank you so much, and all the best with your book’s release.
Alda: My pleasure, Kathie! Thank you for this opportunity!
Alda P. Dobbs is the author of the upcoming novel Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. She was born in a small town in northern Mexico but moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. Alda studied physics and worked as an engineer before pursuing her love of storytelling. She’s as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, different cultures and nature as she is about writing. Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston, Texas.