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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at NYU chapter.

One of the best parts of receiving Author Spotlight inquiries is when a book features the immigrant experience. Coming from a family of immigrants, these are the authors and novels I gravitate to as it’s something I can relate to and hope others can pick up the novel and do the same. 

I’m pleased to announce I was able to interview award-winning author Daniel Aleman! Born and raised in Mexico City, Daniel Aleman has lived in various places across North America and is currently based in Toronto. 

His most recent book, “Brighter than the Sun,” follows sixteen-year-old Sol as she wakes up at the break of dawn in her hometown of Tijuana, Mexico and travels across the border to go to school in the United States. Though the commute is exhausting, this is the best way to achieve her dream: becoming the first person in her family to go to college. Sol’s complicated school and work schedules on the US side of the border mean moving in with her best friend and leaving her other friends behind. With her life divided by an international border, Sol must come to terms with loneliness, the pressure to succeed, and the fact that the future she once dreamed of feels unattainable. 

Both of your novels deal with immigration yet have different harsh realities about the topic. What would you say is the biggest truth you wanted to highlight in “Brighter than the Sun”that differs from “Indivisible?”

To me, “Brighter than the Sun” is an exploration of what it means to exist at the intersection of two different countries, cultures and identities. Having left my home country of Mexico as a teenager, I had to deal with a constant uncertainty of who I was and where I belonged. Through the character of Sol, I wanted to examine these questions about identity—and, in the end, I found an answer that was deeply hopeful. Ultimately, the truth that this book hints at is that it is possible to be from two different countries at once, and there is no real need to choose between one or the other. Like Sol, I am a product of different cultures and nationalities, and I’ve learned to see that there’s beauty in that.

How do you think sharing stories like Sol’s in a young adult genre will impact a younger audience who may be experiencing immigration in one form or another?

My biggest hope is that my books will reach teenagers who wish to see a reflection of themselves in the pages of a book. I haven’t always felt like I had access to many stories that truly portrayed my experiences or my identity, so it makes me incredibly happy to see that newer generations have a much more diverse array of books to choose from. I think that seeing ourselves represented in the media can help us feel less alone, and being able to provide these mirrors to younger audiences means everything to me.

As the daughter of an immigrant, I personally loved reading details that reminded me of my culture like how you used the lime tree and hot chocolate for Sol. What are some of your own memories growing up that you find define your childhood?

Funny enough, I’d say hot chocolate and lime trees are symbols that strongly remind me of growing up in Mexico. Other memories that defined my childhood include having meals around the table with my entire family (something that plays a big role in “Indivisible”), rainy summer evenings and spending hours sitting in front of our old family computer, typing out my little stories.

Your biography highlights your love for tacos. What is something you hate some Mexican restaurants do when you are craving a good taco? What is disgraceful to you as a taco connoisseur?

I love this question—no one had ever asked me this before! I should say that I don’t ever judge people for liking whatever it is they like—but, to me, hard shell tacos are the biggest no when it comes to discussing authentic Mexican food. You wouldn’t really find restaurants that offer hard shell tacos in Mexico. Soft tortillas are always the way to go, in my opinion (but, again, no hate to anyone who prefers hard shells!)

Despite her young age, Sol is forced to grow up to help her family financially by taking a job in the United States. What were some ways you feel you had to grow up versus say a classmate of yours who doesn’t know what the immigrant experience is?

I’ve always thought of the teenage years as a very interesting period—it is when we start to think independently, when we begin to choose what we like, what we don’t and how we see the world. As teens, we grapple with big questions about who we are, what we value and who we wish to become—and, for me, the experience of immigrating just as I was in the midst of figuring all that out was quite jarring. Suddenly, I found that there was a whole new layer added to the process of finding these answers. It’s also true that I came out as gay around the same time, which was also not easy. Looking back, I’d say those experiences are a big reason why I love writing for young adults now—telling these stories is not only a way for me to process certain experiences, but I also genuinely hope that teens going through similar things will feel seen after reading my books.

For readers who’ve either never firsthand experienced immigration or have had someone impacted by it, what do you wish to share with them?

I’d say that there is so much value in understanding people who have had experiences that differ from our own. When I started writing my first book, I was thrown aback by the negative rhetoric surrounding immigration that dominated a good portion of the last decade—which I didn’t feel accurately captured what it truly means to be an immigrant. With my books, I hope to paint a different picture of the immigrant experience—one that feels more human, real and compassionate—and I feel so lucky to be able to share these stories with all kinds of readers.

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I’m so fortunate to have received an ARC and finished copy of “Brighter than the Sun.” (Soft tortillas are where it’s at by the way.) I’d also like to thank Cassie Malmo and Hannah Klein from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers from the Hachette Book Group. Cassie extended this opportunity to me the first half of this process and Hannah executed the latter. Without both of them, this would have never been possible. 

Sabrina Blandon is an English major at NYU with a minor in creative writing. Avid reader herself and literary advocate, she has interviewed over 60 authors from New York Times bestselling ones to debut authors for Her Author Spotlight blog series for Her Campus NYU and Her Campus Hofstra. She loves exploring everything New York City has to offer and is a major foodie.