Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on June 11, 2019
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review
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Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales and her little sister Gabi are detainees of the United States government. They were caught crossing the U.S. border, to escape the gang violence in their country after their brother was murdered. When Marisol learns that the old family friend who had offered them refuge in America has died and they are going to be sent home, they flee.
They hitchhike, snagging a ride with an unassuming woman who agrees to drive them to New Jersey, but when Marisol wakes up in D.C. she learns the woman is actually a government agent. Indranie Patel has a proposal for Marisol: she wants Marisol to be a Grief Keeper, someone who will take another's grief into their body. It's a dangerous experimental study, but if Marisol agrees she and Gabi will be allowed to stay in the United States. If the experiment fails the girls will be sent home, which is a death sentence. Things become more complicated when Marisol meets Rey, the wealthy daughter of a D.C. Senator, and the girl she's helping to heal. Marisol likes Rey's short hair and sarcastic attitude. But she didn't expect the connection from their shared grief to erupt into a powerful love.
Suddenly being forced from the United States isn't just a matter of life and death, but a matter of the heart.
Welcome, welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante! I am currently reading this one, and even though I am not far in, I am very excited to continue! And today, I have an amazing guest post from author Alexandra Villasante! One of the things I was drawn to when I heard about this book was its focus on mental health (which, you all know is a cause close to my heart) and Alexandra explores not only mental health in The Grief Keeper, but how it effects both Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities specifically. It was always my desire during #ShatteringStigmas to explore mental heath issues that can be overlooked, especially within marginalized communities. So without further ado, Alexandra’s post!
By Author Alexandra Villasante
I’m a ‘what if’ kind of writer. I like to imagine what happens when logical ideas are taken to an extreme, or combined with unusual twists. The idea for The Grief Keeper came from thinking about the demanding, physically arduous jobs that immigrants usually take on in our society (cleaning, farming, childrearing) and wondering: What if these jobs were emotionally demanding and arduous? What would that look like?
I was also thinking about a family member who suffers greatly from an anxiety disorder. I love this person very much, and when confronted with how devastating this disorder can be, I’ve felt that I would do just about anything to alleviate this person’s pain.
That brought me to another question – how far would you go to save the person you love? This is a question that confronts several characters in The Grief Keeper, and the answer is sometimes that going far to save one person can endanger another.
Once I had this combination of ideas, I knew that I’d be delving into research on mental health and treatments for depression, PTSD and other disorders – and how much and how little can be done. My research into immigration policy and unaccompanied minor migrants lead me to exploring the crisis experienced by LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum in the US.
There are so many cultural expectations and restrictions in Latinx communities, particularly for girls, particularly for LGBTQ+ youth, that make mental health services critical. But the problem is that culturally, it’s often not acceptable for us to seek mental health help. And stereotypes of Latinas as fiery, dramatic or hot-tempered can lead teachers, nurses and doctors to dismiss very real mental health problems in Latina teens.
According to a recent study conducted with Latina teens in Philadelphia (We Are Not Invisible), one in seven Latina teens in Philadelphia have attempted suicide. This tracks with a CDC study that shows Latina teens have higher attempted suicide rates than their white and black peers.
It’s a complicated issue with many layers. My hope is that The Grief Keeper can open a dialogue, or at least get people to think about mental health in context with Latinix and LGBTQ+ identity.