I met Jane Rosenthal during a Women’s Fiction Writers (WFWA) retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were both living in California at the time, enjoyed each other’s company, our love of writing, and discussed the inevitable struggle of getting published.
And today, I’m pleased to present to you, Jane’s second published work, DEL RIO, a Novel. I hope you will enjoy reading about Jane’s process and how personal experience contributed to her vision for this story.
Jane’s Voice: My novel Del Rio is set in a fictional town in the Central Valley of California, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Central Valley is a place made up of small towns, near where I lived, towns so accessible that they were where I went to get my hair styled, grocery shop or go to the bank. This particular town, Del Rio, doesn’t really exist, except in my imagination.
One of the best compliments I ever received for my manuscript occurred when I was pitching the book at a conference. An editor, looking over his glasses at me, pronounced: “Wow, so do you live in Del Rio?”
The place seemed that real to him. And in a way, it is. Writing is a journey, and this book took me on one.
JANE’S REALIZATION THAT MUCH OF DEL RIO WAS NORTH OF THE BORDER …
Jane says: One Saturday a few years back, something happened that changed the whole trajectory of the book. I’d gone into town to do errands. But when I got to Wells Fargo Bank, the line was out the door. That had never happened before. But I’d never been there on a Saturday, mid-month, payday for the farm workers. It didn’t take long before I realized I was the only native English speaker in the entire line.
A lightbulb exploded in my head. I didn’t need to go south, at least in the book, to be in Mexico. I WAS on the west coast of Mexico. Right then, right there. After I made my deposit, I headed to my office, to sit down and write the first sentence that would become Del Rio.
That sentence came easily: Fletcher wanted me to meet him at the Starlight Lounge, an old roadhouse set on the banks of the San Joaquin River, a few miles south of town.
This was the voice of Callie, my protagonist. And even though Del Rio starts and ends in California, Callie travels to the west coast of Mexico, to a fishing village called San Benito, a place that is Night of the Iguana on steroids. Her mission: to search for a killer.
Then Jane reminds us: You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens once Callie gets there!
FICTION THAT SHOUTS FOR ACTION
Jane’s book is a fascinating read. She tells us: I’d intended when I first started on this Mexico Trilogy to set the second book solely on the west coast of Mexico. I’d been to Mexico’s Pacific coast many times and loved its “Night of the Iguana” feel. I wanted to give the reader that atmosphere, but a totally different feel and cast of characters from the Mexico City setting I had recreated in Palace of the Blue Butterfly. (get it on Amazon)
But then she saw that the seeds of her story were literally planted in the United States.
CENTRAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA WORKERS–WHAT THEY NEED AND DON’T HAVE: BACKGROUND INFORMATION….
- Farmworkers are not protected under the National Labor Relations Laws (NLRA).
- Farmworkers are exempt from many protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA). Exempt from most minimum wage and hour guarantees.
- They are not entitled to overtime pay or mandatory breaks for rest or meals
- There are few labor protections for farmworker children.
- Most farmworkers are excluded from federal minimum wage laws and other labor protections, including the right to overtime pay for workers that work more than 40 hrs./wk.
- FWs are not protected from retaliation by federal law when engaged in labor organizing.
- They are not entitled to receive attorney fees under the Migrant and Seasonal Ag. Worker Protection Act.
- Many FWs on small farms don’t even have access to toilets and hand-washing facilities and drinking water.
- There is a Lack of Transparency in the Food system.
The Fair Labor Standards Act is supposed to protect all workers with respect to the federal minimum wage and overtime pay, even undocumented workers. However, workers have little or no way to enforce their rights.
Read Del Rio for a great story, as well as a look into the dangerous games being played, the innocent lives being risked. Because it is happening, right before our eyes.
And if moved by Rosenthall’s experience, the words in her book, the information I have provided here, please go to https://farmworkerfamily.org/information and donate. For more information that conflicts with above, go to: http://www.lacooperativa.org/farm-workers-know-your-rights-in-the-workplace/
P.S. California produces over 350 commodities; including 1/3 of the nation’s vegetables and nearly 2/3 of the nation’s fruits and nuts. California produces 90% of the strawberries grown in the U.S. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all farmworkers in America reside in California, or roughly 500,000 – 800,000 farmworkers. Approximately 75% of California’s farmworkers are undocumented; 83% in Santa Cruz County. Approximately 1/3 are women, and they range in age from their teens to their 60s. In addition, there are 400,000 children working in U.S. fields;