Fresh Voices: Q&A with Andrea Beatriz Arango, author of SOMETHING LIKE HOME
A moving novel in verse in which a lost dog helps a lonely girl find a way home to her family . . . only for them to find family in each other along the way. From the Newbery Honor Award-winning author of Iveliz Explains It All.
**FOUR STARRED REVIEWS**
What inspired you to write Something Like Home?
Since coming to the States, I’ve encountered a lot of Latinx kids in foster care. Some were my students. Some I fostered myself. But even though I often searched for books in which they might see themselves, the books I found tended to lean on unfair and sensationalized portrayals of birth families to up the plot.
I think the first middle grade I really connected with during my search was Patina by Jason Reynolds. It’s the first book I can remember reading in which a kid lived with another family member because their parent couldn’t take care of them. And I remember thinking YES so hard, because the situation was presented in such a non-judgmental way. While I’ve read more books like that since, there aren’t many. With Something Like Home, I’m hoping to add another story to the foster canon, and this time with Puerto Rican representation.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest?
The hardest part about writing the book was ensuring readers got to see Laura’s parents for who they are—adults who love their daughter very much, who would never hurt her on purpose, who are doing their very best even when their best isn’t quite good enough. Because her parents barely make an appearance in the book, I had to find other ways of showing their relationship.
The easiest part, I think, was writing Sparrow! He’s almost a carbon copy of my sweet pitbull/beagle mix, Ghosty José, and I loved getting to play a little tribute to him in the book. I did a ton of school visits during my pub week, and kids really connected to the pictures of Ghost. Everyone wanted to tell me about their dogs!
What character or element of the story do you identify with the most and why?
I probably identify the most with the character of Titi Silvia, because I do personally know how tough it is to parent someone without actually being their parent. How difficult it is to toe that line. I tried to make her a little flawed, despite her good intentions, because no matter how good of a temporary caregiver someone thinks they are, their mere presence will still always be traumatic for a child. Removal from home always is.
What do you want kids to take away from this story?
In Something Like Home, Laura is constantly re-discovering who her community is, and I hope this leads kids to see how possible it is for different people to help us at different moments in our lives. That you don’t always have to choose one place or one home or one family to pledge your loyalty to. That multiples can co-exist.
I also like how much the idea of choice plays into the plot of the book. Laura (like all of us) is constantly affected by the choices of those around her, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Not every conflict in this book is solved by the end, but I want to show kids that there will always be new paths available, even when it seems they’ve reached a dead end.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently sick and recovering with the cozy Witch of Wild Things by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. I loved both her YAs and am excited to see her journeying into the adult romance space.
In the kid lit world, I recently finished an ARC for the middle-grade graphic novel Atana and the Firebird by Vivian Zhou, which was AMAZING, as well as the YA in verse All the Fighting Parts by Hannah V. Sawyer, which has one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen all year.