If you’re a fan of historical fiction, particularly around the time of Cesar Chavez, then this is definitely a book for you to check out. Find out more about the book and read an excerpt. Feel free to ask John more questions in the comments section. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour. And of course, enter the great giveaway at the end!
Describe your book in one sentence or fewer than 25 words.
The Road to Delano is a story about the courage it takes to make moral choices that go against what’s expected of you by your peers. The road the book speaks of is the path Jack and Adrian, the two main characters, must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny.
What was the inspiration behind this book?
Reading about the moral courage of Cesar Chavez and what it took for him to commit his life to helping the poorest of the poor in California’s grape fields. His commitment to live among the poor and to work his entire life to lift them out of poverty by organizing farmworkers to form a union that could represent their concerns to the the powerful growers. What else inspired me was his use of nonviolent action to win significant pay and working conditions reform from the powerful growers. No organizer had ever used that strategy to negotiate with the growers, and Chavez and Huerta were successful. It’s a great story.
What kind of research did you have to do for it?
My research, in the beginning, consisted of reading books about Cesar Chavez and his times. I visited Delano and Bakersfield, and I found some local resources in the cramped Delano library. In looking for new and interesting voices on the subject, I found essays and books in used book stores. I’ve learned to begin my research with used book stores. I found essays and self-published books written by and about growers and the industry and other individuals the most helpful in developing interesting characters. I also interviewed individuals who attended high school during that time.
Which character was your favorite to write?
I enjoyed writing all of the characters, but Cesar Chavez was a special delight. An editor didn’t think I could pull it off, but I think it turned out real well. Cesar Chavez’s secretary who worked for him for five years, said I got those scenes pitch perfect.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
The two scenes with Chavez in were my favorite. Also the first major baseball scene. I used the games in the book as metaphors for life. Some readers got it others just didn’t care for the sports. But if you think of games as a set of rules that each side has to abide so that competition can be judged fairly, they become, at least in my mind, perfect metaphors for how the workplace should operate. There may be unequal talent on each side, but there are equal rules so that even the underdog has a chance of pulling out a victory. Violence and cheating rob the game of fairness. Think about it as you read the book.
Will we see these characters again?
I’m planning a sequel I hope will reprise several the characters in new roles and situations.
Why should we read your book?
Because we can learn from our own history. If we forget how we’ve gotten to where we are in the treatment of one another, our future is less certain. An understanding of history gives us a solid ground for how we should move forward.
What do you hope people will get out of your book?
The value of nonviolence in solving intractable problems is a key method of social and political reform. Our democratic system is open to reform, needs regular reform, and will always be in a state of reform because of the human nature of those who rule. Chavez proved that nonviolent action can effect significant change in the way businesses treat their employees. Just as John Lewis and MLK, among others, proved nonviolent action can change the way disenfranchised blacks were treated in their part of the country. As Chavez said many times, “You cannot defeat nonviolence.”
Who is your writing muse?
I spend a lot of time reading and taking time to do regular deep thinking. Ideas are in the air, but it is up to each of us to be available to capture them.
What are you currently reading? Up next on your TBR?
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Mysteries of the Alphabet by Marc-Alain Quaknin
If you could meet one person living or dead, who would it be and why?
It’s 1968, and a strike by field workers in the grape fields has ripped an otherwise quiet central California town down the middle. Jack Duncan is a Delano high school senior who is on his way to earning a baseball scholarship, hoping to escape the turmoil infesting his town. His mother has kept from him the real cause of his father’s death, who was a prominent grower. But when an old friend hands Jack evidence indicating his father was murdered, he is compelled to dig deeper. This throws him and his best friend and teammate, Adrian Sanchez, whose father is a striking field worker, into the labor conflict led by Cesar Chavez. Road to Delano is the path Jack and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, and their destiny.
Read an excerpt:
1968 The voices from the fields woke Jack early on Saturday. The musky odor of grapes sifted into his bedroom even though his closed window was shut to the morning cold. He pulled back the drape and row upon row of trellised vines emerged from the gauzy twilight. They stretched to the horizon on three sides of his house. He thrust the window up and leaned out, and a biting wind chilled his face. Thick dark clouds filled the sky, and the voices of workers trimming and bundling echoed in the morning stillness. In these quiet moments, he imagined the land calling to him. Did it matter anymore that all of it was gone? “Jack, you up?” his mother called from downstairs. Off to the east, a red bruise ran across the rugged spine of the Sierra peaks. The air heavy with moisture, it was time to get on the road before a storm rolled in. Jack slipped into his jeans and plaid shirt, tall and sinewy, hardened from work and sports. Ella, his girlfriend, always told him he never fought his clothes like some guys; they moved with him. He didn’t know what to say when she said things like that. He brushed back his blond crew cut and stooped to tie his boots, then he snatched his sheepskin coat off the hook by the door. His mother called again. The day was already half gone from the tone of her voice. In the kitchen, he grabbed a piece of toast, slurped some coffee, and bolted outside. He mounted the cab of his father’s dirt-splattered combine parked by the rickety porch of the Victorian, now tired and sagging. Jack fired it up and the engine idled under his throttle foot. The strong pulses surprised him after all those years of sitting idle. He revved it up, ready to make its last run into Delano. The cab of the boxy, once-bright yellow combine, now the peeling paint, was pocked with rust, perched over the rotary thresher blade in front, raised for road travel. The square separation box that stripped the stalks of their grain pods hunched behind him. Most of the gauges worked—fuel, oil, temp, volts. He flicked on the headlights in the gray morning, two above on the cab’s roof and two below, illuminating the rusting threshing blade.
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John DeSimone is a novelist, memoirist, and editor. He’s co-authored bestselling The Broken Circle: A memoir of escaping Afghanistan, and others. He taught writing as an adjunct professor at Biola University and has worked as a freelance editor and writer for nearly twenty years. His current release, a historical novel, The Road to Delano, is a coming of age novel set during the Delano grape strike led by Cesar Chavez. BookSirens said, “It’s more than a little Steinbeck, in a good way….” He lives in Claremont, Ca, and can be found on Goodreads and at www.johndesimone.com
John DeSimone will be awarding a signed copy of The Road to Delano (USA ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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