Dear America,

Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990It strikes me as somewhat ironic that a book written chiefly for an audience of captive rodents should now reach the Land of the Free. I wish my publishers the best of luck, however, and can only hope that the simple arc of a common hamster’s life, clearly drawn and plainly told, still holds at least some universal appeal.

Although I spent many months in terrible captivity, fending off despair and tedium with only the meager resources of my own mind, the fates eventually smiled upon me. The rest is history, and my legacy now bears little connection to the tiny world from whence it emerged. Yet the knowledge that mine is an unlikely tale, that most other hamsters still struggle vainly under the yoke of oppression, weighs heavy on my conscience. So I dedicate this edition to them, in the meek hope that one day they too can achieve the dream of cageless freedom that so few accomplish, yet so many deserve.

I am yours sincerely,

Edward the Hamster

Discover more from Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990 by Miriam Elia and Ezra Elia

Watch the book trailer:

View pages from the book.

spirit_keeperIn my previous post, I suggested that I wrote my novel, The Spirit Keeper, with the understanding that in 1492 the cultures of Europe and North America were essentially separate but equal, with the differences between them resulting from lifestyle choices made by the different peoples.  I know it’s pushing credulity to suggest that mostly naked savages were the exact equivalent of well-clad socialites, but hear me out.  In this blog, I intend to explore one of the most fundamental differences between the cultures, which is, as it happens, the most important lesson I’ve learned from the First People of North America.

Are you ready?  Here it is:  You are what you eat.

Doesn’t really sound like an Indian aphorism, does it?  But it’s a truth the First Americans understood perfectly in 1492, a truth unknown to the equivalent cultures of Europe, and a truth which many 21st century Americans still struggle with today.  But there ain’t no doubt about the truth of this truth.  You are what you eat.  Literally.

In Europe in 1492, food consumption, like everything else, was a feature of class.  Wealthy, powerful people had all the food they wanted whenever they wanted it, without lifting a finger to raise it, kill it, prepare it, or clean up after it.  The more involved you were with food production, the lower your social standing, and those who scavenged scraps left behind by others truly were the bottom feeders of the European class system.

How different was the experience of eating in America in 1492!   In general, food consumption, like everything else in pre-Columbian North America, was a fairly democratic process.  Food was there to be hunted, gathered, or grown, pretty much by whoever was hungry.  Who fed you, whom you fed, and whom you ate with helped establish key relationships in the community, but not at all in the way food reflected social class in Europe.  Native peoples feasted or famined as a community, not as individuals.  When one person felt the pinch of hunger, everyone in the community felt the exact same pain.

Of course, lean times are inevitable for all people, and the European solution to feast/famine cycles was the development of new technologies to produce more and better food, as well as the rise of a central authority to carefully stockpile and distribute those precious resources.  This system has been so successful for Western Civilization that we now regard it as the only reasonable way to insure a reliable food supply for a large population.

But the First Americans chose a completely different sort of system which worked just as well.  Instead of developing technology to dominate the environment and a central authority to control the food supply, the First Americans worked with Nature to conserve resources to ensure there would always be enough, not just for them, but for future generations as well.  They did not kill or gather more than they needed to eat.  They regularly relocated their villages so as to give the depleted environment a chance to recover.  They trusted the earth to feed them, and, if for whatever reason it didn’t, then their scrawny bodies fed the earth instead.  It was a system which respected the inevitable balance of Nature, and though agonizing losses were inevitable, the remaining populace was generally far healthier and hardier than their counterparts in Europe.

Ah, but there’s one North American aspect of eating that even the most open-minded Westerners have trouble swallowing—the report from multiple sources, multiple locations, and multiple generations of occasional acts of cannibalism.  Details vary, but what it boils down to is that Indians were known to cook and serve the flesh of a victim of torture or to take a bite from the raw heart of a vanquished enemy.  To European sensibilities, this was the ultimate example of brutal savagery, proof positive that the naked primitives had a lot to learn before they could be called civilized.

The more I’ve thought about it, especially in light of what we Westerners now understand about nutrition, the more these gruesome acts of cannibalism begin to make sense.  I mean, if we ARE what we eat, then why shouldn’t we snarf down the heart of a worthy opponent who died bravely and well?  His still-beating heart would be filled with endorphins, hormones, enzymes and amino acids that would stimulate our own internal juices, thus providing nutrients we can’t get in any other way.  On a moral level, by eating our victim’s heart we convert the core chemicals that were once him into the core chemicals that are now us, thus offering him a resurrection.  You are what you eat.  So eat only those you honor and respect.

I have come to realize that I regularly participate in a similar ritual in my own garden.  I plant my carrot seeds in spring with loving care and tend them through their sprouting and growing.  I protect them, water them, and mulch them like babes in cozy swaddling, and, when the time comes, I rip them from the soil and consume them with as much savage gusto as any of the First Americans.  I hate to do it, but I have to, and since I have to do it, I honor my beloved babies by transforming them into me.  I try to assuage my guilt by reminding myself I need that vitamin A for my skin, the beta-carotene for my eyes, but I never lose sight of the fact that I am killing another life form so that I might live.

This concept is not unlike the one Jesus espoused when he passed out bread, said it was his body, and urged us all to wash it down with the wine that was his blood.  His act was symbolic, while the actions of the First Americans were literal, but the point is the same.  No one gets to eat with a clear conscience and clean hands.  We all kill to eat.  In order for you to live, many other things, including other people, simply have to die.

Because of the psychologically devastating nature of this undeniable truth, we humans have had to find ways to accept our guilt without going mad.  Western civilization has coped with the truth by whitewashing it, sterilizing it, and ignoring it.  The First Americans coped with it by reveling in the blood of their foes as it dribbled down their chins.

Which is the “right” way to fill our bellies?  Well, here in 21st century America, most of us live like the European kings of old.   With a few notable exceptions, most of us have all the food we want whenever we want it, without lifting a finger to raise it, kill it, prepare it, or clean up after it.  And so it comes as no surprise that here in 21st century America far too many of us are obese—many morbidly so—and way too many people are pretty much miserable all the time.  And why not?  We eat food we have no relationship with, produced by people we don’t know, packaged, transported and dumped upon us in such overwhelming abundance that it’s no wonder we’re all so horribly fat and miserable—we eat nothing but horribly fat and miserable food!

Maybe we should’ve paid more attention to the primitive savages 500 years ago when they tried to show us that we are what we eat.


Next time:  Why Should Modern Americans Care about Something That Happened Over 500 Years Ago? 

“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.” This audacious declaration begins D. H. Lawrence’s once-banned Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Some influential novels do not declare their intentions to us from their first words. Take James Joyce’s opening on its own: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.” Surely, Buck arrives into our lives with great pomp and humor, but these words alone cannot reveal the ever-broadening cultural, artistic, and legal impact that Ulysses would have. Lawrence, however, is not so timid at the starting line. He opens with a grandiose statement, the kind destined to be emblazoned on t-shirts and scribbled down in the notebooks of adoring readers for years to come. Lawrence was, of course, speaking about the aftermath of the Great War, but the continually tragic face of progress renders his overture endlessly present and universal.

Lawrence’s opening words make a fitting call to action for Banned Books Week. Books have been banned as long as there have been books: for violating taboos, for supposed libel, for encouraging new ways of thinking, for violating prevailing political and religious opinions, and sometimes for almost nothing at all. Black Beauty was once banned in South Africa simply for having the words “black” and “beauty” together in the title. And yet it would be mistaken, in our more enlightened age, to see recent advances for civil rights and a perpetually more open conversation about taboo issues in the media as reasons to suspect that book-banning is no longer a key issue. Like viewing a one-year rise in polar ice quantity as reason to deny global warming, this myopic viewpoint is harmful. Just weeks ago, rather than celebrating the fact that one of its native daughters is undoubtedly among our greatest living writers, an Ohio school board sought to ban Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. And all this means that Banned Books Week is as important as ever. Lawrence’s words continue to apply: “It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles.”

It’s no secret that at Penguin, we’re proud of our history with banned books. In 1960, Penguin was prosecuted for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the famous trial, R v Penguin Books Ltd. Like United States v One Book Ulysses before it, which freely allowed the publication of Joyce’s novel in America, the Lawrence trial was a landmark event for the liberalization of publishing and an important step in fighting book banning. That fight continues, and Penguin is thrilled to be on its front lines. This year, three of the ten books listed as the most challenged books in 2012 are Penguin publications: Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, John Green’s Looking for Alaska, and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. No one here is happy to see those books banned, but we are happy to continue supporting and promoting the valuable work of these authors. If you haven’t read them already, take a look at those books and see why it’s so important that students and library-goers retain access to them.

If you’re looking for something less modern, nowhere is the banner of Banned Books Week held higher than at Penguin Classics. The Classics library holds a cornucopia of banned literary treasures, as the Classics editorial team spotlighted last year on their Tumblr. This year, throughout the week that Tumblr will feature posts on banned writers, especially those outside of the Western canon like the great (and banned) Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Read a banned book this week to celebrate your right to do so. It’s not the Great War, but it is a great war to be fighting. In the words of Lawrence, “We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.”

-Sam Raim, Editorial Assistant, Penguin Classics

silent_wifeWhenever we get books desk dropped at work, I always get excited.  It’s literally a book recommendation being delivered to you from the best of the best in the publishing world.  So when a copy of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife showed up on my desk this summer, I knew it would be coming with me on my vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The book wasn’t too long and even the cover design intrigued me.  All in all, I felt like it would an appropriate beach read.

I could not have been more correct.  Because here’s the truth of the matter – while I love the idea of lying on the beach relaxing, it also stresses me out a little.  What am I supposed to really be doing besides lying there?  Falling asleep is out of the question.  It’s much too loud for me and what if I don’t wake up in time to roll over to make sure my tan is even?  Plus, I was responsible for holding the dog’s leash, so having a book that I could not put down served to be the perfect beach companion.

One could easily argue who the main character of this book is.  To me, it was the title “silent wife.”  What I loved about her was that even though she was at times borderline crazy, she’s also completely relatable.  How is that even possible?  I don’t know, but trust me – it is.  Overall, I felt that all of the characters were very realistically written.  So while you may not always, or ever, agree with a character’ actions, you can absolutely see where they were coming from.

My method of telling if I’ve just read a good book has always been the impression that it leaves on me.  A book doesn’t even need to be particularly well-written (though this one is) or have fully developed characters (again though, this one does) as long as I’m still thinking about it between readings and long after I’ve finished it.  It’s been a couple of months since my vacation and Silent Wife still pops into my head from time to time.  Another way I can tell is that I start recommending it to my friends and family because I really need to talk about it.  Like, right now.

So naturally, after I finished the book, I immediately passed it on to my mother-in-law.  Suddenly she was the one only half paying attention to the rest of us when we were sunning ourselves on the beach or hanging out on the deck of the house we had rented.  But it was okay, because I knew exactly where she was.  Caught up, just as I had been (and still kind of am), in the lives of Todd Gilbert and his silent wife.

— Sonia Lynaugh, Recruiter, Human Resources

The Emmys were given out last night, and we’re still buzzing from the television’s big night. Whether you’re entranced by the screen or the pages, writing culture is a part of our lives. And so, here’s our literary lineup with plenty of TV-related reading material. Click on the images to view their book pages


SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age tells the surprisingly complex, wonderfully nostalgic, and impressively compelling story of how Nickelodeon — the First Kids’ Network — began as a DIY startup in the late 70s, and forged ahead through the early eighties with a tiny band of young artists and filmmakers who would go on to change everything about cable television, television in general, animation, and children’s entertainment, proving just what can be done if the indie spirit is kept alive in the corporate world of contemporary media… All from those who made it happen!
(Publishes tomorrow, September 24th!)


The Emmy Award-winning producer of PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! reveals the secrets to Downton AbbeySherlock, and its other hit programs. For more than twenty-five years and counting, Rebecca Eaton has presided over PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre, the longest running weekly prime time drama series in American history. From the runaway hits Upstairs, Downstairs  and The Buccaneers, to the hugely popular Inspector MorsePrime Suspect, and PoirotMasterpiece Theatre and its sibling series Mystery! have been required viewing for fans of quality drama.
Rebecca Eaton reveals what makes a great adaptation at
(Publishes next month, October 29th!)


A riveting and revealing look at the shows that helped cable television drama emerge as the signature art form of the twenty-first century.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the landscape of television began an unprecedented transformation. While the networks continued to chase the lowest common denominator, a wave of new shows, first on premium cable channels like HBO and then basic cable networks like FX and AMC, dramatically stretched television’s narrative inventiveness, emotional resonance, and artistic ambition. No longer necessarily concerned with creating always-likable characters, plots that wrapped up neatly every episode, or subjects that were deemed safe and appropriate, shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Shield, and more tackled issues of life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race, violence, and existential boredom.


By turns fun, sophisticated, and celebratory, this is an eye-popping and inventive companion to the hit show Mad Men, as well as a salute to the era of cocktails and Camelot. Inspired by the artistic styles that defined 1960s advertising, Dyna Moe creates a candy-colored record of the time, exploring such topics as:

• The office culture, including secretary etiquette and hangover workarounds
• The cocktail craze, with Sally Draper’s cocktail menu
• Pastimes and fads, such as Pete and Trudy’s dancing lessons and Bert Cooper’s art
• ’60s icons from Jackie to Marilyn
• Boardroom and bedroom shenanigans
• The burgeoning suburban lifestyle
• Fabulous fashion, including hairstyle how-tos and bonus paper dolls of Joan


What does it take to go from being a TV fan to a professional TV writer? Television writers whose many produced credits include The Simpsons; Mad Men; Frasier; X-Files; Battlestar Gallactica; CSI: Miami; Law and Order; and House, M.D.; take aspiring writers through the process of writing their first spec script for an on-air series, creating one-hour drama and sitcom pilots that break out from the pack, and revising their scripts to meet pro standards. They also learn how to launch and sustain a writing career and get a rare look inside the process of creating, selling, and getting a TV show made. Edited by Linda Venis, Director of the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, Inside the Room is an unmatched resource for everything readers need to know to write their way into the Writers Guild of America.

Linda Venis gives readers the run down on this year’s Emmy nods at


Posted by: Lindsay Jacobsen, Online Content Coordinator

spirit_keeperIn a world filled with redundancy, repetition, and nothing new under the sun, one moment in time stands out as deliciously unique—the moment of reunion between two groups of humans who had been geographically separated for millennia unnumbered. In other words, 1492—when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Because the people Columbus “discovered” had been cut off from the rest of the world for who knows how long, the reunion offered the rare opportunity to learn all kinds of things about our species, to determine which traits are universal and which are cultural, and to figure out once and for all what really makes us clever monkeys tick.

Then the moment passed.

We got distracted, as always, by fussing, fighting, and dying, and the moments kept slipping away until here we are today.

But we can’t just let that moment go.  It’s too important, too tantalizing, too rife with possibilities, and I hope it isn’t too late to learn a thing or two from it.  If we could pry ourselves away from our usual fussing, fighting and dying—even for just a moment—surely we can still learn something very important.

When we look back at that singular event in 1492, the first thing we should notice is how similar all those people were.  Oh, I know, history buffs will howl in indignation, eager to cite dozens of differences between the Europeans and the people they encountered.  But the differences between Columbus and the Native-Guy-Whose-Name-We-Did-Not-Think-to-Record are incidental, compared to the differences between Columbus and the seagulls dropping guano on his poopdeck or between the Native Guy and the palm trees standing as silent witnesses to this momentous meeting of long-lost relations.

Humans are humans, after all, and, regardless of the massive cultural differences between the men meeting on that fateful beach, the thirsty mosquitoes buzzing ‘round their heads surely found them all delicious.

If all humans everywhere are members of the same species, then Columbus and the Native Guy were basically brothers.  Of course, in 1492 the Europeans immediately concluded they were Big Brother, because their cultures were obviously more advanced than any in North American.  Europe was, after all, the Old World, and those newbie Americans had their work cut out for them just to catch up with all the wonders of modern civilization.

But, um, just calling one culture older than another doesn’t make it so, you know.  Maybe at some point some people wandered this way while others wandered that way, but at no point in human history did new people just materialize out of thin air.  The fact is, all humans on earth can trace their lineage back for the exact same amount of time.  Therefore, the First Americans were not the goofy kid brother of the know-it-all Europeans.  If anything, these races were fraternal twins.

What this means is that North American cultures of 1492 were not a throwback to the Stone Age, not some lost cluster of cavemen that time somehow forgot.  Though they were, perhaps, geographically separated from the rest of the world, as far as I know the First Americans had not gotten caught in a stasis field wherein they stayed exactly the same for 15,000 years while the rest of the world grew up.  In 1492, the people of North America were every bit as mature, every bit as evolved as their counterparts of Europe.

Wait–what?  If the First Americans weren’t primitive savages, then what the hell were they?  Is it possible the cultures of Europe were not clearly better, brighter, older and wiser than those in North America, but that they were, in fact, just different?  But . . . but that flies in the face of everything we’ve been absolutely certain of for over 500 years!  Ah, well.  Vanity of vanities . . . there is no new thing under the sun.

It is so human to make mistakes.  Before Columbus, Europeans were quite sure the earth was flat.  Columbus himself died convinced he’d made it to China.  For 500 years we’ve been absolutely certain the Indians were lagging far behind Europeans in cultural development.  But what if that magic moment in 1492 was the meeting of two absolute equals?  What if the First American cultures were different from those of Europe, not because Americans were primitive savages, but because the First Americans made a whole series of different lifestyles choices than did the people of Europe?

I wrote The Spirit Keeper because I am hopelessly fascinated with the different choices made by the peoples of Europe and North America.  To me, the differences between Columbus and Native Guy, which seemed so vast and insurmountable to the two of them but so incidental to the hungry mosquitoes, are a treasure trove of insight into the human species, and by comparing the choices the people made, I think we can pull out all kinds of golden nuggets of pure truth.  Most of the basic choices of daily life—food, clothing, shelter, family, community, language—were made according to very different criteria in those two very different worlds.  And, by the way, neither of those worlds was old or new, advanced or primitive, better or worse—they really were just different worlds.

Though I could go on and on about the repercussions of the choices made by the different people, I think I should pause a moment to let readers digest what I’ve said thus far.

But please hurry.  The moment’s almost gone . . .

Next time:  The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned from the First Americans

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWhen I was a little girl, I used to sit upstairs and look out my bedroom window for so long that the field was transformed into a giant playground. It was filled with modern and brand-new monkey bars, tall swings, sliding boards, see-saws -– you name it. My street wasn’t hard-packed dirt, it was smooth black asphalt, like it was in white neighborhoods. The trash and dead-branch-filled ditch in front of our house became a clean swooshing stream. We had a front porch, where the floorboards were painted a shiny bright blue, the railing was in tact and a beautiful wooden swing swung back and forth next to a wicker table that housed a frothy pitcher of iced tea. This, instead of walking out the front door and breaking your neck when you dropped three feet into a puddle of sand, and where the overhang was held up by two-by-fours.

My bedroom had starched eyelet curtains, a box spring and thick firm mattress, velvety carpet and enough heat or cool air coming out of the vents to make the hair on the nape of my neck tickle. I had a dresser with drawers that actually pulled out in one tug, and little bottles of perfume sitting on lace doilies. Instead, during winter, there was ice on the inside of the window, piles of thin blankets on a mattress with broken springs that dipped in the middle so my sister and I would spend more energy than we needed to trying not to bump butts; summer, we burned up at night and had to stick our heads out the window to breathe. The floor gave us splinters, and when it was dark, we knew how to avoid the holes. We used buckets to catch the rain that dripped right through the pink insulation.

“Are you deaf, girl?” my mother would say, finally coming up the tight stairwell to see if I was doing something I had no business doing because that had to be the only reason I was pretending not to hear her. But I didn’t hear her. I was busy, recreating my world just the way I wanted it.

I still do this.

Except now I understand why. Over the years, I learned that there are some things in the world that are perfect, beautiful, and in total harmony: mountains, forests, rivers, etc. Over the years, I’ve experienced and witnessed happiness, a sense of worth and well-being, being in love, the notion of being guided in the right direction. On the other hand, I’ve experiences and observed uncertainty, frustration, pain in a variety of forms, misery, unhappiness, depression, lovelessness, loneliness, a feeling of being lost, of floating out there in the ozone, faithlessness, and anger. Well, hell, I needed an outlet for all these feelings and I found it in my fingers.

What I found was that I was not alone, that even when I could “fix” things in my own life, there were still so many wrongs I saw happening to others that I took it personally. So I have continuously asked myself that if I could alter reality to make it better, how would I do it? First, I have to know what’s wrong, then I have to understand why and then how to go about fixing it. It sounds easier than it is because many other things come into play, like dealing with human beings totally unlike myself. Which means I have had to develop this thing called compassion, that I’ve had to learn to dismiss (in some cases) my own notion of right and wrong, and literally put myself in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes I resist, because it’s easier to resist than it is to surrender. When you surrender it’s scary because you feel out of control. I like being in control.

However, if I were able to stop questioning why we as people are not happy and content, why it is so difficult to live more qualitative lives, then I’d be able to stop writing. On the contrary, I know there is no such thing as being perfect or living a perfect life. But, I also know that most people want to know that there will be a time in one’s life where things will go smoothly. Where we can smile for a period of time.

So why don’t we? What kinds of things stand in our way or what kind of obstacles do we impose on ourselves? I think most of us know what we want, but what happens when we don’t or can’t get it? It could be a man. A job. A home. Peace of mind. Energy. More willpower. What’s stopping us?

Well, I like to count the ways, and I do it dramatically. I would like to see more of us happier, healthier, fresher, more eager to please each other as well as ourselves.

I guess, then, I could say that I write because I want to explore the condition of my own life and the lives of others so that it makes sense, so it means something, so that I might learn from yesterday and right now how it can be of use in the future. I want to be a stronger person, smarter, more interesting. Better able to handle rejection and pain and guilt and happiness. I want my life to matter. I want others to know that their lives matter. That we have more power than we realize. And that all we really have is right now.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailFive memorable moments as a writer:

1) When I received a letter from an anthology advising me that they were publishing my short story.

2) When I wrote the last sentence of my first novel, Mama, and knew it was the last sentence. My chest sunk and I believe I lost quite a few ounces of tears.

3) When Waiting To Exhale debuted on the New York Times Bestseller’s list. I didn’t believe it. Not even after I saw it.

4) When I have written the first sentence of each novel, and I never change them. It’s how I open the door to the story.

5) When I realize what my next novel is going to be. And then am plagued by how in the world I’m going to tell it.

latino_americansWhen a publication date arrives, the time when you start to get feedback about the work you’ve done begins. It’s also when you start to hear the questions on readers and interviewers minds.

Latino Americans is my third book, and as with the other two, I’m finding what catches the eye of people who have read or are reading a new work is not what I would have expected.

One question almost everyone who is not Latino asks is “But are they really one people? Can you talk about these 50 million people as if they’re one kind of people?” One of the things that make this a good question is that there’s no easy answer. For example, a generational divide exists over the identification of Hispanic or Latino. Among older people, the primary identifier is national origin, as in, “I’m Mexican…I’m Dominican…I’m Cuban.” Back in the 60s and 70s, Mexicans were largely in the Southwest and Chicago, Puerto Ricans in the New York metropolitan area, and Cubans mostly in South Florida. A growing population, a changing America, millions more native born, and more Hispanic people from more countries living in more parts of the country has spurred the creation of something new, and very much of the United States.

More and more young people tell me they’re very comfortable calling themselves Latina or Latino, and in mixed circles of friends…Mexican, Central and South American, Caribbean, the national origins are more a detail than a determinant of anything.

For those making policy, making ads, or just trying to get their arms around what it means that one out of every six Americans now traces their family back to the Spanish-speaking nations of our hemisphere, a period of adjustment may be required. It need not be feared. You just have to live your way into it.

A struggling school filled with American-born Salvadoran kindergartners in Los Angeles, a Chicago high school trying to hold on to teenage immigrants from Mexico, a middle school in the Bronx trying to convince Dominican and Puerto Rican kids they can go to college have differing and similar challenges. However, the stakes are much higher than they were 50 years ago when America could, and did, write off too many Latino kids as destined for failure.

If America is going to remain a rich and powerful nation, she cannot continue to put up the kinds of numbers in reading and math, high school graduation, and college degrees that she has so far. A generation from now one out of three teenagers in America will be Latino. Instead of 16% of the population, the numbers are projected to be more like 30-32%. If only one of ten are completing four-year degrees in that browner American future, there simply won’t be enough skilled and well-educated people to keep the country affluent.

That’s a message my book carries for the Latinos hungry for an American history that includes them, and for everyone else who is trying to understand where their country has been, and where it’s going.

Watch the Latino Americans series on PBS

you_knew_me_whenLast month, I was very fortunate to have a beautiful book preview party thrown for me by Serena & Lily at their gorgeous flagship store in The Hamptons. As I signed bookplates for my new novel, You Knew Me When, which people were pre-ordering, one woman sat down next to me and said, “I’ve always wanted to be an author. It seems like such a relaxing career.” I was surprised to hear this, as I’ve never experienced that particular feeling about my job, nor has anyone ever remarked similarly. Still, I was curious as to her rationale. “What makes you think that?” I asked.

She went on to explain that the idea of staying in bed all day with her laptop and making up characters and plots is such an appealing idea, as opposed to going to an office and sitting in a cubicle from 9-5. Um, okay. I’m pretty sure I’ve never written a word from the comfort of my bed, nor have I ever worked 9-5. In turn, I told her that there’s way more to being an author than writing, and she was quite intrigued by all that can go into it.

For one, publicity is just as important as writing. Sure, you have to have a good “product” to sell. But, and this is big but, if no one knows about your phenomenal book, then no one will buy it, and your career as an author will be over pretty damn fast.

With this knowledge in hand, I decided to get creative with my marketing plan for You Knew Me When. After all, you can’t rely on your publicist to do everything—they have other books to promote too.

Since You Knew Me When is based around the cosmetics industry and the characters are all stylish in their own ways, my first idea was to approach nail polish companies to see if they’d be willing to partner to create a polish named after the book. I reached out to at least a dozen different brands and ended up joining forces with my top choice, Zoya. Through the brainstorming process, their brilliant team came up with an even better concept: to manufacture the “You Knew Me When” collection of polishes—three stunning shades named after the three main female characters in the novel—Katherine Hill, Laney Marten, and Luella Hancock.

Once this brainchild was on its way to inception, I met the fabulously talented clothing designer, Alessandra Meskita, and we knew we had to work together. I told her about the nail polish set and, immediately, she said, “I have to do a ‘You Knew Me When’ dress collection named for the characters.” I mean, seriously, who am I to deny her that? And here I am a few months later with three amazing dresses: “Katherine,” “Laney,” and “Luella,” which will be sold in stores nationwide and in Alessandra’s brand new Meskita boutique which opens in Beverly Hills in October! Did I mention that she also made “Emily” and “Brooke” dresses (Brooke is my middle name).

So, now I had nail polish and clothing. What else? Why stop there? How about jewelry? Enter Dodo by Pomellato and their spectacular 18kt gold charms, each with a special message. I had the unique opportunity to select the charms that best reflect the personalities of my novel’s characters: the butterfly with the message “I love my freedom” for high powered cosmetics executive Katherine Hill who does everything on her own and never takes no for an answer; the starfish “Handle with care” for the spirited and ever loyal Laney Marten who always says what’s on her mind whether you like it or not; and the angelfish whose message “You work miracles” echoes the relentlessly generous but also painstakingly private personality of Luella Hancock.

I’m well aware that this may not be every author’s approach to marketing their book, but it’s been working wonders for me! And I don’t plan to stop with this novel. Stay tuned for brand new collections to complement my next release: The Love That Lies Ahead, which comes out in September 2014!

 Visit Emily Liebert’s website to check out You Knew Me When nail polish colors and more.