This is the story of Alma Perez, a basically good kid in a cruddy situation, whose good choices are limited. She wants music - it's not available. She wants her grandmother back - she's dead. She wants the good big brother she used to have instead of the gangster wannabe he's turned into. She wants peace and quiet - her house is noisy, crowded, and full of conflict. So she breaks into her neighbor's house, where she can get the music and the quiet.
Source 1: Once upon a time, the kids next door broke into our house on a regular basis and stole small change, CDs, and bus passes. We never proved it was them, but we were pretty sure. It took us awhile to figure out that a torn screen and a cat door were making it easy. We fixed those things, and the invasions stopped. I'm always curious about other people's houses, and often dream that I'm trespassing, but I'm interested in the decor and floor plan, not in taking their valuables and invading their privacy.
Source 2: One day at the worst job I ever had (and I've had some doozies!) I heard mass honking on Commerce Street below. Going to the window, I saw the street crammed full of slow-moving cars all honking in unison, many with pictures of murdered Tejano singer Selena on their hoods. It was the day of her funeral in Corpus Christi, and her local fans who couldn't go there were in mourning. I had never heard of Selena before she died, but I know the intensity of this reaction, how the death of an artist you love gives you the chance to mourn all the deaths of everyone you've ever loved in company, instead of in the normal isolation of personal grief.
Source 3: I lost the worst job I ever had (hurray!) and did a stint as a temp, including assignments to the UTSA Bicultural Studies Department and the Hispanic Mother/Daughter program. I proofread articles on gangs for a special issue of a journal and an entire book on Tejano and conjunto music, I had access to material on Spanglish, teen-age marriage, families, everything I needed to write this book.
When I first conceived of Alma Perez and her family situation, in the wake of the home invasion and the funeral, I didn't think I could write her story. After all, I'm a lumpy little middle-class white woman with a poor grasp of Spanish. What did I know about Alma? How could I possibly write intelligently about her life? But the people at the Bicultural Studies Department and the Hispanic Mother/Daughter program didn't care about that. They wanted me to write this book when I described it to them. And I don't believe in God, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to spit in the universe's face. This book wanted to be written and everything happened to enable it, so I wrote it.
Was it worth it? Is the book any good? That's up to you.