Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Thirty Year Old Historical Fiction by Linda Dahl, Author of Gringa in a Strange Land
Today's guest blogger is Linda Dahl, author of Gringa in a Strange Land.
Gringa in a Strange Land brings back the exhilarating and confusing time of the “counterculture” in the early 1970’s.
Erica Mason, an American woman living in Mexico, is torn between working to become an artist and the lure of the drug culture.
Set mostly in the colonial city of Merida in the Yucatan peninsula, the story also moves among Mayan ruins, laid-back beaches and the cities of Belize and Oaxaca.
A host of bohemian expats and Mexicans, and the complex character of Mexico itself, infuse this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-American, culminating in an unexpected resolution
"Thirty Year Old Historical Fiction" by Linda Dahl
I love good historical fiction. I once wrote a book set in New Orleans spanning the l800’s up to the l960’s. The research for the book was immense. There was a scene where the main character was cooking – good thing I did my homework, because the kitchen those days was a shed out back! But I never imagined when I dusted off the 30-year-old manuscript of Gringa in a Strange Land a few years ago that it, too, had become historical fiction. Erica Mason, the twenty-something American woman who hits the road and ends up living in Mexico, has no idea of this, of course, but I did. Above all, it has to do with technology. In the l970’s in Mexico, there were few telephones – no cell phones, of course – there was no internet, and a slow, inefficient mail service. In a foreign country, without recourse to the immediate, constant flow of communication, Erica becomes isolated in a way that is simply unimaginable today. (When I went to Africa a few years ago to Malawi, one of the least developed countries on earth, even there were cell phones and internet service at the hotels.
The huge challenge of coming to terms with the world is heightened for Erica in Gringa by the period in which she lives. If the book had been published when it was written, in the late 70’s, the isolation she experienced living in a “strange” land would have been considered normal. Then, when I rewrote the book many years later, I saw that Erica had acquired an old-fashioned, even somewhat exotic quality in terms of the technology boom that had followed in the late 20th century. And this must be especially so for any reader younger than my generation, the “baby boomers.” Meeting very few fellow Americans, thrown almost completely on her own resources, Erica in Mexico in l973 and ’74 has to learn to negotiate a foreign language and foreign attitudes to a degree that is no longer the case. Erica’s isolation both dramatically heightens her conflicts and it also, I think, compels her to move beyond her darkness itoward the light.
Linda Dahl has written extensively about Latin America, women in jazz, New Orleans and other topics that interest her over a thirty-year career as a published author. She has lived in Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil and New York and currently lives in an old farmhouse with lots of flowers and pets. A widow, she has a daughter and a stepson. Her website is www.lindadahl.com and blog about her new book at http://gringainastrangeland.blogspot.com.
You can follow Linda's virtual book tour every weekday in January by visiting http://virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/