Read Related: Mamiverse Book Review: Summer of the MariposasMamiverse: How did you decide to combine elements of Mexican folklore and Homer’s Odyssey in your book? McCall: As you can probably tell, I am also a great fan of Gabriel García Marquez and magical realism. I think that all these elements—my experiences as a reader, my desire to create something new and different with mystical elements from my Mexican culture [McCall was born in Mexico and moved to Texas as a child], and something that would interest my own students here in South Texas—all came together and inspired me to fill a gap for my girls. It was an opportunity to speak to gender roles, about the Hispanic culture, and the importance of family values as it applies not just to my students and me, but also to all young women in general.
Young adult novelist Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s latest book, Summer of the Mariposas (Tu Books), is a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey with a decidedly Latino twist. We had a chance to chat with McCall, whose debut young adult novel, Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low), won the coveted 2012 Pura Belpré Award and was named a Morris Award finalist. She shared with us a little of her life story and the inspiration that led her to take on Homer. Mamiverse: What inspired you to write Summer of the Mariposas? McCall: When I was a student, I was a voracious reader. I looked for new worlds and adventure within the walls of my school library. I came upon Homer’s The Odyssey when I was very young, in middle school. I loved it so much that I researched it and ended up reading Bullfinch’s Mythology three or four times in the 8th grade, losing myself in that ancient world. That led to reading other ancient mythologies, and I devoured those too. But as I fed on those stories from long ago, I always had the same reaction and questions my female students have when we now read The Children’s Homer in my class: “Why do men get to have all the fun? Why do they get to go on adventures? Why aren’t there any women defeating mythological creatures and embarking on heroic journeys of their own?” So for many years now, I’d actually been toying with the idea of an all-female quest story. I wanted to see if I could take one of the greatest stories ever told—a male-oriented story—and turn it upside down to make it all about the power of being female. It was a challenge, and I love a good challenge.