Thursday 23 July 2015

Blog Tour Guest Post & Giveaway - Teresa of the New World by Sharman Apt Russell

Teresa of the New World
Author: Sharman Apt Russell

Book Description:
In 1528, the real-life conquistador Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked in the New World where he lived as a slave, trader, and shaman. In this lyrical weaving of history and myth, the adventurer takes his young daughter Teresa from her home in Texas to travel to outposts in New Spain. Once there, Teresa is left behind as a servant in a Spanish household. But when an epidemic of measles devastates the area, the teenager must set off on a new journey, listening again to the voices of the desert, befriending a war-horse and were-jaguar, sinking into the earth to swim through fossil and stone, reclaiming her power to outwit the cunning figure of Plague. A story of apocalypse and hope, Teresa of the New World takes you into the dreamscape of the sixteenth-century American Southwest.

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The Plagues and Epidemics of the Sixteenth Century in the New World

Like many people, I am drawn to stories about the end of the world. The end of everything! Dark and difficult times! Apocalypse!

Perhaps such stories help us deal with the fears and difficulties of everyday life—the stark reality that most of what we take for granted will also eventually end. That the people we love will die and someday we will die, too. Today, in particular, apocalypse may also be a popular theme because of larger social issues. Climate change is a looming global threat. We live under the cloud of nuclear war and terrorism. Life can be scary.
Importantly, stories about the apocalypse are also stories about hope. No matter what happens, in the worst of situations--even when the world ends--someone or something still survives.

When I started writing stories about the sixteenth century in the American Southwest, I knew I would be writing about one of the world’s worst known apocalypses. In the early 1500s, the Spanish brought the diseases of the Old World to the New World. The native population had never been exposed to these viruses before and the result was horrific. Some historians estimate that as much as 90% of the population in some areas in Mexico died. Entire villages emptied. Epidemic after epidemic swept across the land.

In my story Teresa of the New World, Teresa is the daughter of a Capoque mother (from the coastal tribes of Texas) and the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. For much of her childhood, Teresa is a servant in the kitchen of a Spanish official. The song I quote in the passage below is one I found in my research, a popular rhyme of that day:
“The women in the kitchen sang: Sarampión toca la puerta. Viruela dice: ¿Quién es? Y Escarlatina contesta: ¡Aquí estamos los tres! The cook would sometimes shout a little madly, “Sing it again!” And the women would sing again: Measles knocks at the door. Smallpox asks, Who’s there? And Scarlet Fever replies: All three of us are here!”

Teresa knew all about these diseases:
“Everyone—the cook, the assistant cooks, the assistants to the assistants—felt it in the air. A bad time was coming. Every few years, New Spain seemed to experience such an epidemic. Sometimes it was measles, deadly to many adults and almost all babies. Sometimes it was smallpox, dreaded for the horrible days of pain with sores that began in the mouth and throat. Sometimes it was scarlet fever with its alternating chills and heat, or typhus, tabardillo, whose small red spots covered a woman like a tabardo or sleeveless cloak, growing closer and closer together over her chest and shoulders. Everyone in the kitchen had a story of a mother or sister or brother or daughter or son who had died of one disease or another, of entire families dying and villages left empty.”

Moreover, the mischievous figure of Plague delighted in telling Teresa more than she wanted to know:
"Plague changed the subject, telling her instead about smallpox, his favorite disease. “This will interest you,” he assured her, “for your father knew the man who brought viruela to New Spain.  In the ship of Hernan Cortez, a black man suffered with smallpox, the sores not yet formed although the man groaned from a headache that seemed to cleave his skull in two and he screamed at the sensation of a knife stabbing his back. He had dreams, too, the wonderful, bloody, extraordinary dreams of viruela. Then he felt better, and he went out into this New World, and from him the pestilence spread like light from the sun. The Aztecs called it hueyzahuatl.  The sores start in the throat and mouth and travel down the face over the body, pimpling, blistering, leaking pus. The skin looks scalded! Some people begin to bleed from every opening—their mouth, their eyes . . .”

Plague delighted in the stories of disease and in tormenting Teresa. But in the end of my story, the sixteen-year-old girl defeats the trickster Plague. She survives the epidemics and the loss and the grief, just as the native peoples of the American Southwest survived. She is healed by the earth and by her connection to the earth. She has hope.

Teresa of the New World continues to dream in my mind. A dream of hope.

About the Author
Sharman Apt Russell has lived in the beauty and magic of Southwestern deserts almost all her life and continues to be amazed by that. She has published over a dozen books translated into a dozen languages, including fiction and nonfiction. Teresa of the New World is her third middle-grade and young adult novel.

Sharman teaches graduate writing classes at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, New Mexico and Antioch University in Los Angeles, California and has thrice served as the PEN West judge for their annual children’s literature award. Her awards include a Rockefeller Fellowship, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Henry Joseph Jackson Award.

Her work has been widely anthologized, with numerous starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The San Francisco Chronicle has said “Russell’s writing is luminous” and Kirkus Reviews wrote, “A deep reverence for nature shines throughout Russell’s rich, enjoyable text.” The Seattle Times described her An Obsession with Butterflies as a “masterpiece of story-telling” and the San Diego Union Tribune called it “A singular work of art, with its smooth, ethereal prose and series after cascading series of astonishing lore.” The New York Times and Discover Magazine both described her book on hunger as “elegant.” Of her Anatomy of a Rose, the Sunday Times (London) said, “Every page holds a revelation.”

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Four (4) signed copies of Teresa of the New World (US).
Ends July 28th.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for hosting a tour stop! I LOVE her guest posts, they are fascinating!