Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Inspiration for Broken Ground by Karen Halvorsen Schreck + Giveaway (US/Can only)

Broken Ground
Karen Halvorsen Schreck

When a young oil rig widow escapes her grief and the Texas Dust Bowl, she discovers a surprising future—and new passion—awaiting her in California in this lyrically written romance by the author of Sing for Me.

Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town. She’s making a home when she learns that her young husband, Charlie, has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.

At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with some old family friends, she meets the striking and compelling Thomas Everly, whose own losses and struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp just east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.

After Ruth is forced to leave school, she goes to visit Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—all while promising to love and cherish one another.

The Inspiration for Broken Ground's Plot: Family and American History

Much of my writing explores family life, particularly the many levels of inheritance for an individual—the ways in which something passed down from one generation to the next can figure as a blessing or a burden, or both. I’m also fascinated by situations that test loyalty and provoke shifting allegiance, the dynamics of transformation and reconciliation, as played out in family of origin and chosen family. The Us of Kith and Kin versus the Them of Others and Outsiders... such divisions capture my attention and concern me.

So it’s probably no coincidence that the characters in my books are often propelled to action because they want to escape confinement—neighborhood and artistic limits in my previous novel Sing for Me, for example, and religious and intellectual constraints in this most recent book Broken Ground. Like Rapunzel, a fairy tale that figures in Broken Ground, the story’s central character Ruth Warren must repeatedly leave what is known—and has evolved into a kind of prison—in order to know herself fully and experience life in its fullness.

In writing Broken Ground, I wound up throwing the net of conflict wider than I have before—much wider than the dynamics of a single family—as I explored an aspect of history not typically included in school curriculums (only in 2015 did California pass a bill urging that it be taught about in classrooms). Until recently, this historical event hasn’t been acknowledged as a legitimate concern with implications for our world today. But current tensions around immigration and the status of refugees has brought the so-called Mexican Repatriation program of the 1930s into the national spotlight as never before.

Yes, my original impetus for writing Broken Ground was rooted in family life, and in this case, personal family history: after losing her first husband my mother worked to “escape” her grief by leaving the small town in Oklahoma where she grew up in order to attend college in California. It’s an aspect of my mother’s story that’s always inspired me, and still does: leaving as she did wasn’t easy, particularly as she was the first member of her family to do so, and she was a woman of her time and place.

But as I researched California in the 1930s, the better to understand her journey—so different from my previous associations, which were mostly rooted in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath—I learned for the first time about the deportations without due process of so many people of Mexican heritage during the 1930s. Between one and two million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were deported in a ten-year spance, experts says, and 60% of these people were U.S. citizens. Families were separated; established lives destroyed. As I learned more and more about all this, my mother’s personal story became intertwined with the sweeping public event in my imagination.

Broken Ground feels my most risky novel to date. It was definitely the most challenging to write. Like many, I knew nothing I learned about the massive deportations as I researched and crafted the book, and so my journey paralleled my main character Ruth’s: I started out oblivious and wound up with new awareness, still only understanding a portion of the truth of a complex narrative that has yet to be fully told. But the Us of Kith and Kin versus the Them of Others and Outsiders... once again in Broken Ground, this tension drove me to The End.


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Broken Ground—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is answer Karen's question in the comments below:
What is your favorite family story to tell?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Karen and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at Claire McKinney PR!
Giveaway ends June 3rd at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!