Hiya guys! I’ve got a sci-fi dystopian-ish novel to share with you today. The author was kind enough to write a guest post for me to share, so check it out, and see what you think of this adventure!
Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper
~Released: August 20th, 2015
~Length: 194 Pages
~Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dystopian
In Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’, he creates a completely unique vision that seamlessly blends tropes of magical realism and dystopian fiction in a portrait of power in America that we’ve never seen before. Imagine it as the communal love child of Marquez, Bolaño, and Orwell, a child who inhabits an America that resembles Pinochet’s Chile, and yet feels uncannily (and frighteningly) familiar to present day Los Angeles. A world in which street assassin Tre, a young and much beloved brother and son, finds himself caught in a city where all its citizens, even its most dangerous, are potential targets in the on-going power struggle between an authoritarian military regime and a not-so-community friendly guerrilla force. As Percival Everett says, “This novel treats revolution, love, betrayal and magic with equal adeptness and intelligence. In a world that is at once ours and foreign Rosales makes characters that will be remembered when the novel is done.
Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper (Mixer Publishing, 2015) won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. Previously he won the Center of the American West’s award for fiction three years in a row. He is a PhD candidate at University of Denver and has taught university level creative writing for 10 years.. Rosales’ second novel, Gods on the Lam releases in June, 2017 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Word is Bone, his third novel, is forthcoming 2018 from Broken River Books.
~ Connect with Christopher Online ~
~Rose: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
At the conception of this book’s central premise, I was reading about the rapes and murders in Juarez, the shootings and hangings in Tijuana, and the desaparecidos in Latin America. I was watching films about Latin America, films like Sin Nombre and Manda Bala, that moved me to write. As a matter of fact, the working title for Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper was Plata o Plomo. Plata o Plomo translates to Silver or Lead. Money or bullets. I couldn’t help but think about violence and corruption here, in the United States. Violence, corruption, and migration have always been topics I’m fascinated by, perhaps particularly because I grew up in L.A. in the 90s. There are microcosmic instances of migration here. I saw it in the neighborhoods of Compton and Paramount as those demographics changed after the gang wars.
My teenage years were in the ‘90s, when gang warfare was a profound social concern often dismissed as a byproduct of pop-culture, “too much rap or metal music” or desperation misrepresented as gluttony on the part of the people most inflicted upon by socio-economic circumstances forcing them to fight to survive. The more I traveled and read and researched, the more I began to see how important it was to legitimize the gang wars of the ‘90s (and the violence we see in the news today) as war.
The rates of PTSD in American inner cities are as high or higher than documented in veterans of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Vietnam. To make a long answer longer, the more I researched poverty and violence in cities in Latin America, a place so often and unfortunately called ‘third-world’—how distancing is that language, right?; not this world, but another— the more I began to think… you know, the premise of this novel (that an American family try to flee a corrupt government) is not always such a stretch. Whether in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta or Ferguson… for some Americans, day-to-day life does not feel like first-world life. In fact, for many watching television, accounts of life in America feel otherworldly.
Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper represents America speculatively as a dystopia fraught with political corruption and violence—an America any of us might rightly decide to leave. In Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper, an American family is faced with an America in which the threat of harm is so unbearable they decide to emigrate illegally out of the United States. When an area is bad, we don’t want to be there, we don’t want our family there, and I don’t understand what about that instinct is as inhuman or irresponsible as some would make it out to be.
Because of the setting being so close to Southern California, I knew that I’d be interacting particularly with a Latin/X American dynamic. That’s the culture I grew up around. That’s the origin of most immigrants I knew. So, while I made a strong effort to keep race and ethnicity nebulous in the book, because I don’t see poverty and immigration as an easily reducible issue, the setting naturally dictated conversation with Latin/X American culture. This meant, to me, harkening back to what I remember about my youth: a strong communal oral tradition and a penchant for trenchant satire, casually called chisme (gossip); certain interest in superstition and the magic of prayer, and a literary tradition of the (talk about genre bending!) magical realists like Rulfo, Marquez, etc. I wanted to bring the American exoticization of those Latin American settings home to L.A. It’s as rich a setting as any for the kind of romance and tragedy the novel explores.
Another idea that came from the very beginning was the communal “we” voice in the first lines.
“In the city square where all our little barrios met, even quiet steps frightened the swarms of dirty birds—up like ghosts, their wings swiped breaths right off your face—and it was there we always whispered round the story about the baby. Not about the baby, but the baby’s death. Murder, really.”
The whole book grew out of those first lines. The hometown voice was a kind of playfully poetic slang made of the urban Latino, African-American and Caucasian cultures I grew up around, mixed with all of the books my family constantly read, mixed with the unabashed regionalism of all of the Southern Gothic writers I wanted to be like, like Cormac McCarthy, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and Flannery O’Connor. And while Los Angeles lends itself to an unexpected relationship to the Southern Gothic literary tradition, exploring histories of race and violence and poverty and humor in the face of it all, Los Angeles also has an intimate relationship to the history of crime writing and films noir. So, the voice of this book is often that voice of my community not now, but in the ‘90s, the ‘80s, the ‘70s, ‘60s, and ‘50s. It’s a voice that I don’t use in certain venues; not because I’m ashamed of it, but because I cherish it and want to see it honored as I try to in this book. That communal voice spreads the message that no matter how victimized any of us in the world might be, by any circumstance, we still have our own story to tell. I deliberately kept cultural origins ambiguous at times, because however differently cultures share their stories, their voices, we all share the culture of storytelling.
Be sure to let us know what you think of this book & the guest post in the comments below!
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