Thrilled to share my interview with Author Alda Dobbs and her recent middle grade release BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA – an inspired story about the Mexican Revolution and how one girl is set to keep her promise.
BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA by Alda Dobbs
Release Date: September 14, 2021
It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna’s mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left―her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito―until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none.
Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: “They’re like us barefoot peasants and indios―they’re not meant to go far.” But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border―a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.
Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna was inspired by the experiences the author’s great-grandmother endured during the Mexican Revolution.
From the moment I read about this story, I knew I wanted to share it. It’s wonderful to have you visit us, Alda. Tell our readers a little about your main character Petra Luna.
Petra Luna is a twelve-year old girl who makes it her purpose to keep her family safe in the middle of war and chaos. Despite the turmoil and suffering around her, she remains faithful to her dreams of learning to read and write and to a promise she made to her father before he was forced to fight in the war.
Why will young readers relate to Petra?
Petra’s dreams and her way of seeing the world are often at odds with her grandmother’s views. Young readers will see how differences in perspectives between generations is a universal theme that transcends time. Readers can also see how Petra’s journey to escape violence in her homeland and reach the safety of the United States is something that is relevant to today’s times or might have happened in their own ancestor’s pasts.
If Petra could pick three things to take with her on a deserted island, what would they be?
Petra would likely take her hatchet, her black rock, and maybe a pencil and slate?
What about you?
I would take pen & paper, my laptop, and an espresso machine. Not sure where I’d get the coffee, milk, and chocolate syrup for my mochas, though.
BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA is inspired by your great-grandmother’s experiences during the Mexican Revolution of 1913. How did it feel learning this information from real-life family experience?
I had always enjoyed listening to family stories but took them lightly most of the times. For one particular story, my favorite one, I embarked on a long research journey, and after many months, the day I found out that this family story had been true and accurate all along, is a day I will forever remember. Ever since, I became much more grateful for my family stories, knowing they were not exaggerations. Also, through the many photographs I came across in my research, I saw, learned, and appreciated all that my family had gone through – the harsh poverty, the prejudices, the violence – and the enormous effort and sacrifice they made to give me a better life. After completing my book, I felt closer to them than ever before.
Such a vital story and piece of human history to share with younger generations, but also because it’s so close to your heart.
Did you do much outside research for the book as well?
Yes, I researched many things, even the most mundane, and some never made it into the book but it allowed me to know the characters and setting intimately.
Ooh, that’s a super important fact of writing: Lots of researched information doesn’t make it into the book, yet it influences the writer.
I researched the Mexican Revolution, desert plants, curanderismo, Aztec mythology, Náhuatl, music from that era, etc. I also printed out segments of Sanborn maps and assembled them together like puzzle pieces to let me know what streets Petra Luna had walked on. When I cross-referenced the map with old photographs, I could see buildings she came across and even walked into. I kept a timeline handy that followed actual dates chronicled in newspapers to help weave in the fiction.
Why do you believe this story is important to tell?
The history of the Mexican Revolution is complex, but I believe young readers should be exposed to it in a way that they get a sense of its causes, its consequences and, most important, of what women and children went through. This is a part of history that isn’t taught in schools nor mentioned in books, yet it changed the landscape of both Mexico and the United States forever and still resonates in our current world.
What do you hope middle school readers take with them after they’ve read the book?
I hope that they learn that they too have the power and determination to be a leader like Petra. Sometimes we adults don’t give children enough credit yet they are capable of so much if we give them the space and confidence to grow and figure things out on their own. I also want them to realize that no matter the circumstances, they can look to their dreams for guidance and strength during dire times.
For our writing readers, what is your writing routine like? And what is one piece of advice you can offer?
I’ve never really had a writing routine (after 10 years of writing, I’m still striving to find one!). Ever since signing my publishing contract, I’ve been more conscientious about writing time since I now have real deadlines. I’ve always been a night owl and tend to be more creative at night, but as a mother of two young kids, I’ve had to adjust my times. One piece of advice I’d say is to try to write every day, read books of fiction or on craft, listen to audio books, take workshops, attend conferences, in other words, always keep yourself immersed in words or on learning how to best put them together.
Are you working on a new project? If so, care to share?
I am! Right now, I’m working on Book 2, the follow-up to Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. This story will follow Petra and her family to a refugee camp in Eagles Pass, Texas and then to San Antonio where 30,000 refugees settled during that time. I’m also working on the Spanish translation of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna and will soon record the Author’s Note for the audio book. I’m also kicking the idea of a picture book and a historical YA. Stay tuned!
Wow! A picture book and historical YA . . . sounds great. Make sure you let us know so we can share it with everyone. All the best with this. Thank you so much for sharing this important story of history, hope, and resilience.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alda P. Dobbs is the author of the upcoming novel Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. She was born in a small town in northern Mexico but moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. Alda studied physics and worked as an engineer before pursuing her love of storytelling. She’s as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, different cultures and nature as she is about writing. Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston, Texas. WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM
Enter for your chance to WIN a signed copy of BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA and some book swag! Ends 09/26/2021; US only. Winner announced via Twitter.