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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The stunning sequel to New York Times bestseller Skin of the Sea, in which the world must pay the price for one mermaid’s choice, and a dark force reverberates across realms. Perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and those eagerly anticipating the live-action The Little Mermaid.

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To save those closest to her, Simi traded away everything: her freedom, her family, and the boy she loves. Now she is sworn to serve a new god, watching over the Land of the Dead at the bottom of the ocean.

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With the fate of the world at stake, Simi must break her promise and team up with a scheming trickster of a god. And if they succeed, perhaps Simi can also unbreak her heart along the way, and find herself again.

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Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

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Natasha Bowen

Natasha Bowen is a New York Times bestselling author, a teacher, and a mother of three children. She is of Nigerian and Welsh descent and lives in Cambridge, England, where she grew up. Natasha studied English and creative writing at Bath Spa University before moving to East London, where she taught for nearly ten years. She is obsessed with Japanese and German stationery and spends stupid amounts on notebooks, which she then features on her secret Instagram. When she's not writing, she's reading, watched over carefully by Milk and Honey, her cat and dog. Follow her on Twitter at @skinofthesea.

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