“Like her idol, Sandra Cisneros, Bianca wants to be a voice for her people, the Mexican American working-class residents of Southern California … Givhan manages to tell a story about Mexicali culture that, by focusing on one young woman’s hope, avoids cultural generalizations and tells, instead, a story of family growth and personal triumph.”–The Washington Post
I’m thrilled and buoyed to celebrate with you the birthday of a book that’s been my heartwork for the past twenty years. JUBILEE is inspired by my girlhood as a Chicana growing up on the Mexicali border of Southern California, experiencing the cultural stigmas in the Mexican-American community toward teenage sexuality, childbearing, abortions, miscarriages, and violent relationships with machismo boys and men. As a survivor of assault and an abusive relationship, I needed to write a book that grappled with the complexities of trauma and how cultural, religious, and familial norms affect healing.
The idea for JUBILEE was born while I was researching maternal trauma and encountered Reborn dolls used as therapy for women who’d experienced childloss. These dolls are often custom-made, and the artists who create them advertise that they can recreate a replica of a child from a photograph. Women who collect or adopt Reborns sometimes carry them around as if they are “real” babies, strolling them around the park, strapping them in car seats, and so on. Partners often participate, for the sake of their beloveds. As a mother who’s experienced infertility and pregnancy loss, the whole Reborn concept was incredibly compelling to me, and I wondered, what would happen psychologically if a woman really couldn’t tell the difference between a Reborn and her “real” child. In other words, what if this Reborn was real…
Over a decade, during which time I adopted my son, birthed my daughter, earned an MFA in Poetry, drafted and sold another novel, and never, ever, ever gave up on JUBILEE. I was exceedingly proud of the first draft of this novel, the first sustained piece of fiction I ever wrote, because I completed an entire draft in less than a month for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And although it took nine years nearly to the month to see publication and has been a long, arduous road, I’ve kept the faith, and I’m so dang proud of my mama writer self. Finally now, twenty years after living it, almost ten years after setting it to paper—Jubilee is ready to go home.
I hope that Bianca’s story and her experiences with Jubilee will inspire you as they have me—and give you the courage to create what’s real and truly beautiful in this world. Whether in this life or the one we create in our hearts and minds—in our imaginations. I want readers to walk away from the story with a sense of who and what Jubilee is in their own lives and why she is such an important and potent symbol for the power of hope—what keeps us going, what keeps us loving, what keeps us alive.