Author Interview: Maria E. Andreu

Maria E. Andreu, author of The Secret Side of Empty

Maria E. Andreu, author of The Secret Side of Empty

Maria E. Andreu took time to answer questions for Books In Common about her experiences as well as her book and the impact it has on readers. She is a great addition to Hispanic Heritage month, September 15th – October 15th.

What are some of the “teachable” moments in your book that make it work well for a speaking engagement?

My protagonist is an undocumented immigrant, so of course there are many opportunities to explore the broad national conversation through one teenager’s story.

But even if the topic is not immigration, The Secret Side of Empty deals with alienation, secrets and the fears and challenges teens face when trying to imagine their adult life.

Would you share some notable experiences you’ve had at speaking events that you’ve participated in?  

It has been an amazing experience to travel around the country to meet teens and adults who have read the book.  Probably my favorite thing to hear from people who come out to hear me speak is, “I had no idea.”  This makes me know that the book opens minds.

But recently I also spoke at a non-profit that helps undocumented teenagers.  One of them said to me, “You helped me finally understand myself.”  That was amazing to hear as well.

In your opinion, what are a few of the discussion topics in your book that would be good for a book club or Community Reads Program to consider?

Other than the issue of immigration, The Secret Side of Empty deals with domestic violence, suicide ideation, coming of age, the disparity between social classes, trying to fit in, the high price of keeping secrets, self-esteem and learning to be honest about yourself.

What inspired you to write this story?

I was undocumented as a teenager, like M.T. the main character in The Secret Side of Empty.  For many years I didn’t tell anyone my story.  But then, post 9/11, I heard the rhetoric around immigration and especially immigrants turn so ugly and it inspired me to tell my own story.  Once I did that, the book followed.

Your book, The Secret Side of Empty, is about a young girl who does not have legal citizenship in the US. The hot-button topic of immigration is constantly debated, do you feel your book gives a different voice to immigrants, and why?

That was my goal in writing The Secret Side of Empty.  I feel that when people discuss immigration the conversation is often around statistics, the economy and the law.  Often the human side of the equation is forgotten. The Secret Side of Empty is not a political book.  It’s one teenager’s story.  But my hope is that by giving people a glimpse into the pain and struggle of one girl who is  undocumented it can help people have more compassion when they approach the question of how we fix our immigration system.

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