Suzanne Cane y Olvera has lived in Mexico City for more than forty-six years. She was born Cane but spent many years as Olvera (the “y” means “and” in Spanish). Also, since all of her children are Olveras, that “Olvera” has become an important part of her identity.
She was born 71 years ago in Brooklyn, New York, before it became trendy.
People tell her that she could easily peel ten or even fifteen years off her age, but she feels that that would change who she is. Lying about her age, she says, would be like someone saying he is tall when he is really short or that he is descended from royalty when his grandparents got off the boat at Ellis Island along with hers.
She was born when anti-Semitism was the norm, when the South was segregated, when “gay” meant happy, when sexual harassment in the workplace was an everyday occurrence, and long before anyone got the idea that women counted and were good enough to do jobs that had always been done by men. That was why she, like so many other women at the time, went into teaching.
Just before she turned 25, she went to visit Mexico City for a week, met her husband and had four children. (It turned out to be a very long week.) The marriage ended, but she stayed in Mexico anyway. It was, as it had turned out, the family home.
Mexico is the kind of place where one has to improvise to survive. She sold books, did translations (in the days when she could barely handle the language), and taught British history just to get out of teaching English as a Second Language. She had spent six years studying English and had begun a Ph.D. in American literature, only to end up teaching economics, political science and history, fields that she has since become quite passionate about and, she says, even quite knowledgeable.
When she was eight, she had already thought that being a writer was the greatest thing anyone could do, and she set about writing a novel about Korean war orphans (it was the early fifties). The “novel” was four pages long, but she never lost her desire to write.
She did stop, though, for many years. She would say that the hiatus was due to building a home, having children and working to support them. The sad truth, she later came to realize, was a lack of self-esteem. She just never thought she could do it.
Many years later, when she had twins, she would snatch moments between feedings to write. The result was her first novel, a total, grotesque failure, as she describes it, but she was writing – finally – and that has made all the difference since.
Her most recent publication, although it grew out of that first effort is Gringa (you can find it at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AN99CQ6) which deals with the life of an American woman taking on the challenges of life in Mexico.
And now from the author herself:
I have lived for 71 years, so I have quite a bit to say. I’ve did my degrees in English and American literature, but I have also have done quite a bit of work in history, political science and economics (some of it by teaching, which makes for the best learning, rather than taking formal courses). Therefore, my interests have become rather eclectic.
I have written a novel, Gringa, (Las Gringas También Lloran in Spanish), a couple of pieces on economic issues (All the Economics You Really Need, for example) and a number of works on time management, done comically, and woman’s issues, which could be classified as self-help books (in both English and Spanish, as you will see on Amazon.com – the link is in another attachment)
The first book I actually published was in Spanish (El Pequeño Instructivo de COMO SER HUEVON y No Fracasar en La Vida) and can be loosely translated as “the little instruction manual on how to be lazy and not make a mess of your life” which was quite a hit in Mexico. It sold something like 100,000 copies officially by two different publishers. It is still being pirated and sold illegally in various street markets in Mexico City, and, for all I know, all around the country and, perhaps, even the rest of Latin America. Oh well! (Ni modo, as we would say in Spanish)
I would like to say something about my novel, Gringa, since I consider that one “my baby”:I currently have another novel in the works, as well as a couple of non-fiction pieces, one of which should see the light of day within the year.
Immigration in the United States is a problem that everyone is aware of. What Americans in the United States do not realize is that there are many Americans who are living permanently in Mexico (somewhere around the million mark).
Elaine Lowen de Rodrigez is one of those people. She marries a Mexican man, moves to Mexico, and has four children with him, only to finally give into the realization that there can be no future with him. She can pick up and leave, but not without losing her children. The novel is full of romance, terror and suspense – things that Elaine had thought could happen only in novels or in the movies, never in real life, and certainly not in hers.
The book has been reviewed by a few. One reviewer said she is “waiting for the sequel”. Another calls it “a window into a little known world”. Another says, “Suzanne Olvera’s long-time familiarity with the culture of Mexico has provided her with enormous insight into bicultural life in that country. With skill, but not without humor, Olvera is able to convey the culture shock so many American women have experienced upon moving there.”
I truly believe that this novel will appeal to many Hispanics in the United States. Surely, it will take them back to stories their parents and grandparents have told. There could also be a good deal of satisfaction at seeing the proverbial shoe on the other foot.
As for that first book I mentioned on being lazy and getting away with it, I had forgotten (must be part of that old ageing process) that I had sent it to Kurt Vonnegut and that he wrote a little review on a personal postcard which appears in the book. A quote from him now appears on the front cover as well.
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