Gabriela Garcia on Her Fantastic Debut Novel Of Women and Salt
"I've always been a kind of internal person. I used to spend a lot of time as a child on my own, in my imagination, and I think it was easier for me to communicate through writing than it was in conversation," Gabriela Garcia, author of the novel Of Women and Salt (out March 30), tells People CHICA. "Before I could even write, I would tell these stories to my mom and ask her to write them down. I loved to create new worlds."
In her novel, the 36-year-old writer, of Cuban and Mexican descent, dives deep into subjects like abusive relationships, mother-daughter bonds, and immigration. "All of the characters in my book always have a little bit of my own experience or people that I know in the community, but ultimately it's fiction," she says. "When I wrote parts of it, I was working as an organizer in various migrant justice movements, and I was in conversations with a lot of women in detention centers and that was very much on my mind."
The book's main character, Jeanette, battles addiction and struggles with a toxic relationship. "Jeanette is in an abusive relationship, starting when she's young, that affects a lot of her own addiction and how she relates to her own mother. I wanted to explore an abusive relationship, the confusion and the complexity that can happen in that kind of dynamic," Garcia explains. "There is a part of it when she's trying to understand this person who is hurting her but performs these acts of kindness, which is often the case. I wanted to highlight that confusion."
She also explores the unique bond between mothers and daughters. "There is often the image of the suffering immigrant mother who sacrifices everything for her child, and some of the mothers in the book do suffer or sacrifice, but they are all dealing with their own trauma," she says. "One of the mothers sometimes wonders if she wants to be a mother. I wanted to capture the complexity of motherhood."
Writing during the pandemic has been challenging, says the author, who lives in California. "I've been working on short stories and poems. I haven't started a longer project yet, eventually I want to write another novel," she shares. "I feel very distracted and chaotic right now. I need quiet in my mind to write."
She poured her soul into Of Women and Salt, which took several years to finish. "I wrote a book in which all of the voices are those of women," she says. "And that's what I wanted to do, to have women's voices."
For more with Gabriela, look for the April issue of People en Español, on stands Friday.