I love a story of a person who works on their dreams and makes them come true. I want you to meet Sandra Lopez. A young up and coming Latina author who did just that.
About Sandra: Sandra C. López was born and raised in Hawaiian Gardens, California. She learned to read at the young age of two and strived to achieve the best grades in school. Her free time was spent reading, writing, and drawing. Sandra managed to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and enter college. Her first novel, “Esperanza: A Latina Story,” was published in March 2008 while she was still in college. Now, this young writer is a full graduate of Cal State University Fullerton with a BFA in Animation and Illustration, and she is anticipating a promising career as a writer and an artist. “Beyond the Gardens” is the follow up sequel to “Esperanza.”
I had the opportunity to get in contact with Sandra and ask her a little more about being Latina and about herself.
Have you ever felt disconnected from your Latin culture?
No, my Latin culture has been with me since day one. It has been especially true growing up in a Mexican barrio with all the tíos y menudo n’ stuff. Even today, I could still say that I am still connected because I am writing about my experiences in a way that I am re-living them all over again.
How do you maintain the connection?
Whenever I look at my brown skin and dark hair, I am reminded constantly of my Spanish Indian roots. I don’t think I’ll ever forget where I’m from. If I ever did, I would probably read up on some Latino literature because, let’s face it, a lot of it is practically a memoir for most of us. The barrios, the gangs, the immigration, etc. Most of us can relate to all that.
What Latina stereotype “grinds your gears?” explain.
Oh, I’m hearing my mother’s voice now: When are you gonna give me nietos (grandchildren)? Like it’s every Latina’s duty to get married and have kids before they’re 20? I hate that. I mean, is that what being Latina means? Well, not for me. I don’t want to get tied down so fast that I wind up missing what there is to see out there. I’m going to live my life for me before I give it away to a family.
What’s your favorite Latin food restaurant and the favorite thing on the menu or what do you enjoy cooking?
Unfortunately, I don’t cook. Don’t have time or the culinary skills from my mother. I guess my favorite Mexican dish would have to be my mother’s Spanish rice, especially when she cooks gallina y mole. Mmmm. (Editor’s note: Seeeee not every woman can cook! a girl after my own heart.)
What has your journey been like, from growing up to having your book published while you were still in college?
It was totally unexpected. Being an author was not something I aspired to do, it was just something that happened. It was a calling that I just had to answer to. Growing up, I’ve always thought that writers were so cool (still think that, actually.) I thought they were so smart and talented. Of course, I can never do anything like. After all, I was a poor Latina straight from the barrio. It wasn’t ’til I discovered the works of Sandra Cisneros and Luis Rodriguez in junior college that I decided to write my own story–a story of a shy, ambitious Latina who just wanted more from her life and decided to do something about it. So I started writing her story. Again, my intention was not to be published when I wrote that story. I was just going to leave on the shelf and let it collect dust forever. But then I thought, what could it hurt? After getting about 30 rejection letters, I got a call from the editor of Floricanto Press, asking to see my manuscript. Four months later, I got a contract and two and half years later, I got a published book. It still wows me even to this day.
What authors, places and people inspire you?
Any author is an inspiration to me, more so now since I know what the writer’s life is like. But, really, anybody that is truly content with who they are and how they’re living their life is always an inspiration. And that’s me!
If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do what you want to do in life and do it now! Don’t wait because life is fleeting and will end before you know it.
Any other projects you’re working on or something that people can look forward to?
I am currently working on a collection of short stories that are all based in my hometown of Hawaiian Gardens. Release date is still tentative but will announce it to my readers if and when the time comes.
Tell me something most people wouldn’t know about you?
Whenever I do an interview or panel, people have often told me how confident and outgoing I sound. But I’m actually quite shy.