Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz
Published by: Starscape Books
Publication date: October 2, 2018
Genre: Middle Grade
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An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.
After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.
When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.
With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.Hi again my awesome fellow bookworms! Today, we have another special guest here at Behind The Pages! She is a Filipino debut middle-grade author and her book Everlasting Nora will surely touch every human soul.
In this interview, she will talk about her character, Nora, who can be both a window and a mirror to each one of us. So, let us all welcome Marie Miranda Cruz!
Hi Marie! Congratulations! Welcome here at Tale Out Loud and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
Thank you so much!! I’m happy to have this chance to chat with you.
Everlasting Nora is your debut middle grade novel. To start, can you tell us something about Nora, the main character of your book?
Nora is a girl with clearly defined goals. She dreams of living in a real home again and is determined to achieve that dream and thus regain the life she had before the fire that destroyed her home and her family. Nora likes to learn and isn’t afraid to work hard for what she wants. She’s also good at crafts. A trait she and I share. She’s spunky and brave, or tries to be because it’s not always easy in a place like that. When she moved to the cemetery, she believed she wouldn’t live there for long and wasn’t keen on making new friends. In a way, she almost didn’t want to adjust. She didn’t want this new life to be her normal but she soon learns it won’t be easy getting her old life back.
Initially, what was your reaction when you found out that Everlasting Nora would finally be published after a twelve-year journey of writing and perfecting this amazing piece of work?
First of all, thank you so much for your kind words! The moment I found out EVERLASTING NORA was going to be published felt surreal. I had been on the journey toward publication so long that it felt like it was happening to someone else. I guess because this was a feeling I was so used to—watching from the sidelines—and that’s exactly how I felt. It was strangely unbelievable! I felt humbled by the love my editor, Diana Pho, had for my book and her steadfast faith that this was an important story to share. I think we both felt it was high time American children’s literature included stories like this one that reflected aspects of Filipino culture Americans knew so little about.
As a window, Nora’s story will help them see what other children experience in other parts of the world; empathy begins with awareness. As a mirror, children may read about Nora, see their own experiences, and feel that they aren’t alone in their suffering.
I have read that the first holiday that you had experienced in the Philippines was All Saints Day. How has this experience inspired you to write this debut? Can you share the story behind it?
One of my earliest memories of All Saints Day in the Philippines was watching my young cousins collect melted wax from candles burning around the tomb and forming the soft wax into balls. I wrote a story about a pair of brothers who had a strange adventure the night of All Saints Day. A couple of years later, when I decided to write my first children’s novel, I remembered this story and began my research about Philippine cemeteries. During my research, I came across a blog post by a Christian missionary who had written about a trip he had to the Philippines. He had worked with Manila social workers to help the orphans who lived in the north cemetery. He wrote about one girl in particular. Her name was Grace. She had been abandoned by her mother. She begged on the streets and slept wherever she could find safe shelter in the cemetery. She later died in a charity hospital, alone. This story struck me keenly. I began thinking about Grace and how she came to live in the cemetery. That’s how Nora’s story was born.
When you realized that it was time to write Nora’s story, what kind of research approach you did to her character?
I used a lot of my own memories of my time growing up in the Philippines. Nora is modeled after a few of my cousins and school friends, as were other characters in my book. For the setting, I did my research online, mostly through photo archives of photographers who had a collection of photos of the squatter communities in Philippine cemeteries. Also, since I had been living in the U.S. since the 80’s, I interviewed friends and relatives to add to my own recollections of current cultural practices, etc.
During the recent Augvocacy, you have once mentioned about the importance of empathy. How significant it is in this story for readers, especially the young once, to build an understanding to what Nora experienced?
For many readers, young and old, a story can be a window into a world they have never seen or knew about, or a mirror of their own experiences. In thinking about empathy, this story can have significant impact on young people in both ways. As a window, Nora’s story will help them see what other children experience in other parts of the world; empathy begins with awareness. As a mirror, children may read about Nora, see their own experiences, and feel that they aren’t alone in their suffering. That the strength Nora found in her friends and in her own steadfast resilience can motivate them to keep going, to keep living and hoping for a better tomorrow.
Through Nora’s story, how do you wish readers remembered us, Filipinos?
People around the world already know Filipinos for our work ethic, our love of family, and our delicious food. What I hope readers will take away from this story about Filipinos is the spirit of giving in our culture, that even the poorest among us have something to share. I remember my aunt telling me a long time ago that even the poor will have a “handa” at fiesta time.
What one bit of wisdom would you like to impart to aspiring writers out there who want to voice out their own story?
My advice is to be patient! Be patient with the industry and yourself. Take your time and hone your craft and tell the story only you can tell. Someone out there will want it someday.
Anything you want to say to everyone who have read and yet to read your book?
To all who have read EVERLASTING NORA, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To all who have yet to read, I hope Nora’s journey will touch your mind and soul.
I also manage to ask Marie Miranda Cruz for a rapid round of questions, a segment of this author spotlight I’m calling, Quickfire. And because Filipino cuisine is one of the highlights in her book, you will know some of her favorites here!
Knitting or reading?
Not a fair question, lol! I love them both! If I REALLY had to choose, it would be reading.
A book that left a lasting impression on you.
Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
Biko or Banana-que?
Quesillo or Tamales?
Quesillo! *I miss this SO much*
What kind of work would you do for free?
Advice to your younger self.
Study harder, lol.
It was great chatting with you! Thank you so much for having me.
About The Author:
Marie Miranda Cruz was born in the Philippines. She spent most of her formative years moving between her hometown, Cavite City, and several cities in the United States while her father served in the United States Navy. When her dad retired, she moved back to the Philippines where she completed both high school and college. The first holiday she experienced in the Philippines was All Saints Day. It was this experience that inspired her to write her first novel, Everlasting Nora.
Marie now lives in Los Angeles with her family and a tank of fighting fish. When she isn’t writing books for kids, she may be analyzing chromosomes in a genetics lab, reading a good book, or knitting ponchos and fingerless gloves.
She is represented by Paula Munier, Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC.
📖 Everlasting bookmark made from lovely, hand-dyed Peekaboo Yarns (50 lucky winners)
Grand prize winner will get:
📖 A beautiful illustration by Abbie Cruz
📖 Everlasting Nora bookmark
📖 Everlasting daisy sticker
📖 Everlasting bookmark made from lovely, hand-dyed Peekaboo Yarns
📖 A lovely daisy pendant