Author and filmmaker Valentin Sandoval will read from his award-winning novel, “South Sun Rises,” at The Art Avenue Gallery next Thursday, March 31. The story follows the struggles of a single-parent family of five and how they contend with traversing physical and metaphorical borders. Written in a poetic narrative prose, the bilingual novel expounds on the familiar themes of absent father, single mother and the fight to make it to the land of milk and honey in pursuit of the American dream. The book garnered the prestigious Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association.
“South Sun Rises” depicts the struggle of Sandoval’s mother and her endeavor to not only provide for her children’s physical needs, but their emotional and spiritual ones as well – all while trying to make ends meet by working two jobs.
“My mom had to be both mother and father; both the nurturer and the maker of rules,” Sandoval said. “She worked two jobs and there was this cycle of having to be above survival and subsistence.”
Sandoval, a native El Pasoan, shored up a wealth of material for the novel from his upbringing. However, he really cut his literary teeth on the streets of New York’s Lower East Side and the famous Nuyorican Poets Cafe, where he solidified relationships with literary giants Miguel Algarin and Tony Spiller. While in New York, Sandoval also spent a lot of time in predominantly Puerto Rican and Dominican neighborhoods, thus gaining a broader understanding of the common struggles among many immigrants.
“When you delve into the book, I’d like to think it’s layered with universality,” Sandoval said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Dominican or you’re from El Salvador or from Juarez or India or Spain – we worked at making it real enough to the heart and pain and condition of everyone.”
The novel is an introspective reflection of Sandoval’s upbringing. Although it is his first published work, it is not his initial literary effort. He originally traveled to Manhattan to present a different manuscript to Algarin and Spiller, which they categorically rejected, referring to it as “sh*t,” according to Sandoval. A silver lining lay in a serendipitous recounting of Sandoval’s upbringing and family struggles over dinner with the two. They were enthralled with his story and urged him to begin writing a manuscript.
“[Spiller and Algarin] told me ‘That is the novel we’ll publish; that is the story you should tell,’” Sandoval said.
“South Sun Rises” was published in 2014. Since then, Sandoval has traveled the country promoting the book. Several colleges have appropriated his work across the country for use in their curriculum, including Michigan State University, UT Austin and El Paso Community College. Sandoval also works with Catch The Next, a California-based non-profit college readiness program that focuses on Latino and underserved students.
“He is one of our ‘dream catchers’ peer mentors,” Catch The Next CEO Maria Martha Chavez said. “The peer mentors program includes a cadre of scholars, authors and mentors from various disciplines of theory and practice teaching and learning for student success.”
Those who’d like to learn more about Sandoval’s story and Catch The Next will have a chance to talk to him at The Art Avenue’s event.
“South Sun Rises” book reading and signing
The Art Avenue, 1618 Texas Avenue
Thursday, March 31, 6 p.m.
More info at facebook.com/TheArtAvenueGallery and