Elementary-school-teacher-turned-writer and California native, Malín Alegría (Estrella’s Quinceañera), answers a few questions about her new teen series Border Town (Scholastic/Point), her struggles with self-image, puffy Princess dresses, and growing-up bicultural.
Can you describe your high school years? Are there echoes of Fabiola’s experiences in your past?
In high school I was a rebel — a tame, respectful, nice rebel. I was a late bloomer and utterly uncomfortable with my developing body and relationships with boys.
In my junior and senior years, I was voted most creative and class clown. I was definitely on a mission to be different, to not suck up to the cool rich crowd, and to start my own trends. My hair color and identity changed every couple of months. I struggled with self-acceptance. There were no role models on TV or in magazines I could look up to and try to emulate. Many times I felt alone and misunderstood.
No group in American culture has been more stereotyped than Native Americans. While other ethnic stereotypes now meet with disapproval, harmful images of native people are still accepted or defended within majority culture, even when Native Americans complain. There are images and characters in books and other media, expressions in current usage, the naming of places and sports teams, and negative expectations about the behavior of Native Americans. It is so pervasive that non-natives often don’t realize they’re saying or doing things hurtful to Native Americans. (And when it is pointed out, the response is often disbelief or denial.)