7 Questions with Alda P. Dobbs

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1. If you could travel back in time, (assuming there’d be no risk to yourself or changing the course of history) where and when and why would you go?

I would love to go to Mexico City or New York City during the late 1930’s/early 1940’s because of the great big band music and swing dancing. I also would like to spend time in Cuba during the early 1950’s, again, because of the music and dance. If you can’t tell, I love to dance!

2. Your book is set during the Mexican Revolution. What fascinates you most about this time period?

There are many reasons why the Mexican Revolution fascinates me. For one, many family stories, nursery rhymes, music, and dances I grew up with came from the Mexican Revolution. I also admire the fortitude and resiliency of the women and children during this time. I appreciate the universality of this drive to survive and how it transcends eras and cultural lines.

3. What elements of this time period do we still see today?

Unfortunately, many elements of that period are still with us today. People are still escaping violence in their homelands and searching for refuge in a foreign land. The economic disparities from back then are becoming more prevalent not only around the world but also here in the United States. Refugee camps, like the ones my great-grandmother lived in, are part of our daily news. But people always come together to help others. We see this in our borders and in countries like Poland, just as we’ve seen it throughout history.

4. What kind of insights do you think kids from this time period have?

Children from that era were resilient. Many of them were orphaned and had younger siblings to care for. They displayed immense fortitude and an unquenchable drive to survive the war and overcome the oppression surrounding them.

5. Is there an historical tidbit that didn’t make it in the book, but is super interesting?

I grew up listening to many stories of Pancho Villa. To my family, he was a hero. I was fascinated to learn how despite his strict military discipline and short temper, he had a soft spot for children, especially poor ones. If he ever came across a group of poor children he’d say, “We should build a school here.” During his time governing the state of Chihuahua, he opened 200 new schools. He also tripled the wages of all educators, stating that teaching was the most “noble” of all jobs. He believed an educated society was essential for the success of a country.

6. What’s your favorite historical fiction (any age!)

I have many favorites but one of them is Crispin by Avi. Despite the story taking place in medieval England, I was intrigued to learn how the agonizing and miserable conditions that the common folk endured during that time were very similar to what my own family lived through in Mexico hundreds of years later.

7. What are you working on right now?

I’m preparing for the launch of my second book The Other Side of the River. This book follows Petra Luna’s story in the United States as a refugee after having escaped the Mexican Revolution. I have also started a new middle grade novel that may or may not be historical…I’m still deciding, so stay tuned.

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