By Thelma Reyna–Sandra Lopez, the author of the newly published young adult novel, Beyond the Gardens (2009), is a literary force to watch.
She has been precocious for most of her life: reading books at the age of two, being the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, being one of the youngest emerging authors today. She recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton and is ready to take on the literary world.
Her first novel was published before Sandra graduated from college. This debut book, “Esperanza: A Latina Story” (2008), depicts a teenager from a poverty-stricken home marked by domestic abuse, alcoholism and other drug abuse, gangland connections among her father and other relatives, and a saddening absence of hope for the future.
Her barrio, Hawaiian Gardens in Los Angeles County, could easily defeat her, as a friend tries to tie her down to early marriage at the cost of her education. When Esperanza enters high school, she faces bullies, peer pressure to meet low expectations, and the tremendous possibility that she, too, will become just another Latina dropout.
Esperanza has no role models, no home support, but she finds strength she did not realize she had and fights against obstacles to fulfill her dreams.
In her new book, a sequel, Esperanza is now 18 years old and enrolled in an art college, pursuing her dreams with financial aid. Her life is upended when friends from her past re-enter: Carlos, who is now interested in her romantically, and his sister, Carla, who had urged Esperanza to marry her brother while in high school.
Esperanza also contends with her roommate, a rich Chicana; and with Jake, a hunky mechanic who seems to be her soul mate. Life becomes complicated for Esperanza as she constantly wonders what is “beyond the gardens” of her barrio, and what life can possibly hold for her.
Thelma Reyna, Ph.D is an author, editor, California University professor and Texas native. Her first book “The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories,” was published in September 2009. She writes the blog, “American Latina/o Writers Today” which features Latino and Latina writers. She also is a guest blogger on Aurelia Flores’ blog, “Powerful Latinas.”