The Transformative Power of Books, a guest post by Daniel Aleman
“In time, you’ll realize what I’ve come to learn after all these years: That change gives as much as it takes, and it can open doors you never even knew existed. And that is a wonderful thing. A wonderful thing.”
Those are, perhaps, my favorite lines in BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN, my second novel. I wrote them on a cold winter evening, holed up in my apartment during a time when the pandemic was still the top thing on everybody’s minds. At that moment, this reflection about change felt like just another piece of dialogue—something my main character’s grandmother would naturally say—so I didn’t stop to consider its true significance until much later. It was during one of my many re-reads of the book, while I was in the thick of revisions, that I saw my own writing reflecting back at me with an entirely new meaning—one that felt not just relevant to the story, but also to my own life.
Indeed, the process of writing this book was filled with change. I began working on this story in January of 2020, before the COVID crisis was declared a pandemic, before cities around the world went into lockdown, and before life was transformed beyond recognition. It’s also true that were some drastic changes to my publishing team during the early months of 2020 (including a corporate acquisition that meant switching publishers altogether), which left me without much stability to hold on to, even as I forged ahead and continued to write my second novel.
Once I had a chance to revisit those lines during revisions, it occurred to me that perhaps I had written them as a reminder for myself at a moment when it felt as though my life was filled with chaos. Perhaps they were a reflection of the solace I sought during those early months of the pandemic.
Looking back, I find it so interesting that, as writers, we sometimes teach ourselves the lessons we need to learn through our own stories. Books can be transformative—not just to the people who read and absorb them, but also to those who write them. What’s even more fascinating is that, sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re teaching ourselves a lesson until much later on, once we have the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve written. With my debut novel, INDIVISIBLE, the lesson I unwittingly taught myself through my characters was that there is strength in vulnerability, and that asking for help when you need it only makes you stronger. With BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN, that lesson was more complex: It was that change is not necessarily a bad thing. Not only do good things can and do come from it, but if we ever hope to grow, gain perspective, or appreciate the good things in life, change itself is a necessity.
The fact that I now get to share some of these reflections with readers fills me with joy—especially as I consider teenage readers who, like me, may need a reminder that change isn’t always as cruel as it may appear, and that it can bring wonderful, unexpected things along with it. My biggest hope is that BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN will reach readers who will see themselves reflected in Sol, the main character. She is a teenager who feels inexplicably lonely at times, who is struggling to find a place where she belongs, and who is faced with enormous pressure to succeed for her family—but, throughout the novel, she becomes someone who manages to find comfort and love in the people around her, who learns she doesn’t always have to do things alone, and who discovers the power of her own voice.
I always say that there’s a fine line between the stories authors choose to tell, and the stories that choose us. And I can confidently say that this one chose me, because it transformed my worldview at a time when I desperately needed to cling to hope, love, and community. My wish is that it will help readers see themselves and their own lives reflected in it, and that it will serve as a mirror of hope and perseverance for those who need it.
Meet the author
Daniel Aleman is the award-winning author of Indivisible. Born and raised in Mexico City, he has lived in various places across North America and is currently based in Toronto, where he is on a never-ending search for the best tacos in the city. Brighter Than the Sun is his second novel.
About Brighter Than the Sun
This timely and thought-provoking story about a teen girl shouldering impossibly large responsibilities and ultimately learning that she doesn’t have to do it alone is the perfect follow-up to Daniel Aleman’s award-winning debut novel, Indivisible.
Every morning, sixteen-year-old Sol wakes up at the break of dawn in her hometown of Tijuana, Mexico and makes the trip across the border to go to school in the United States. Though the commute is exhausting, this is the best way to achieve her dream: becoming the first person in her family to go to college.
When her family’s restaurant starts struggling, Sol must find a part-time job in San Diego to help her dad put food on the table and pay the bills. But her complicated school and work schedules on the US side of the border mean moving in with her best friend and leaving her family behind.
With her life divided by an international border, Sol must come to terms with the loneliness she hides, the pressure she feels to succeed for her family, and the fact that the future she once dreamt of is starting to seem unattainable. Mostly, she’ll have to grapple with a secret she’s kept even from herself: that maybe she’s relieved to have escaped her difficult home life, and a part of her may never want to return.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 03/21/2023
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network