Fresh Voices: A Q&A with Author Andrea Beatriz Arango

Welcome to the Fresh Voices series! We are excited to share a special Q&A with author Andrea Beatriz Arango about their new middle-grade novel, IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL.

The Fresh Voices series is brought to you in coordination with the RHCB DEI Book Club Committee.

What inspired you to write IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL? 

That’s a hard one to answer! I’ve always been interested in exploring mental health and family dynamics in my writing, but I’d never tried to write middle grade before, and certainly not in verse. I think it came down to the timing of the world, really. We had just been sent home unexpectedly, schools closed for the indefinite future, and I suddenly found myself a middle school ESOL teacher (of newcomers!) far away from students who had suddenly been stripped of the place that provided them all of their communication and mental health support. I definitely used writing as a bit of an escape.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest?   

The easiest part was Iveliz’s voice. It came so naturally – like she had been waiting for me to tell her story just so she could burst out into the page. The hardest part was writing the emotional components of the book. If a reader has cried reading a particular scene, chances are I also cried while writing it.

What character or element of the story do you identify with the most and why?

I love intergenerational stories because I grew up in a place and culture that really values family duty and relationships. My maternal grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s, and while I still lived in Puerto Rico, I helped with her care. Alzheimer’s is very difficult both for the person living through it and the people living next to it, and a lot of that emotion came from my family’s experiences.

What do you want kids to take away from this story?   

I hope the book helps kids strip away a little bit of that shame associated with going to therapy or being on medication. There is nothing wrong with needing or wanting either of those, and I think that needs to be spoken about more in classroom settings.

What are you currently reading?

I read a LOT (check out my bookstagram if you want constant book recs), but at this moment I am reading The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes (YA), Adrift by Tanya Guerrero (MG), and The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (Adult Romance).

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