The main inspiration behind writing Earrings of Ixtumea was based on an experience I had with my first graders. I taught in a bilingual classroom. One of the assignments was for them to draw themselves. Imagine my surprise when most of the pictures that came back to me were of blue eyed, blond, fair skinned children. My student’s idols at that time included Britney Spears and Xuxa, a Brazilian children’s television host, who was blonde, blue eyed, and very fair. Also a number of the telenovelas actresses were blonde too.
But it wasn’t until I attended the bilingual/bicultural graduate program at Cal State Fullerton in the early 90’s that I learned more about the culture which I ended up finding was mine too.
My own grandfather was the child of an Italian immigrant and the daughter of Mexican migrants. My grandfather was ashamed of his background and refused to speak of it. After my great grandmother’s death a number of people even changed her maiden name thinking that would erase who she was.
I remember going to Olvera Street in Los Angles to find out more about my great grandmother. I found the reconstruction of the same church where they were married. And I even found their marriage written in Spanish verifying who she was and the names of her parents.
It was a long journey for me finding the truth about my Mexican background. No one wanted to admit it but I refused to give up. More than once I felt her spirit guide me to the truth.
In Earrings I wanted to have a teen find out about her rich culture and heritage. I also wanted her to see how beautiful her people were. I hope others see this in my story.
I feel that TV and the movies have made some progress in showing Latinos in a more positive light. I love America Ferrera. I pictured her as the original Lupe when I started writing this story. I hope more on the history of Latinos in this county will be addressed. One example would be the migrant rights marches lead by Cesar Chavez. Also I’d love to see a TV show addressing the history behind the 1947 ruling of Mendez vs. Westminsterwhere a Latina mother fought for the right for her children to attend the nearby white school. This was before Brown vs. the Board of Education and happened in Southern California yet not many know of it.
If I do write a sequel to Earrings, it would take place in our world as Lupe goes in search of causes for her people. Of course she’ll have to go back to Ixtumea. I’d love to expand the relationship between her and her warrior Teancum. When she’s older, of course!
More about Kim:
Kim Baccellia was a bilingual teacher in Los Angeles County for eight years and during that time she didn’t find many books for Latinas that were upbeat or dealt with their heritage. During the time she wrote this novel, she was learning about her own Mexican heritage and decided to write a novel that was set in a Mesoamerican world.
Kim has also written Crossed Out, a YA paranormal and her YA fantasy No Goddesses Allowed has a tentative release date of Fall 2012.
A current member of SCBWI and YALITCHAT, Kim is currently writing the sequel to Crossed Out and a YA multicultural Sci-Fi. She lives in Southern California with her husband and son.