Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"This Time Tomorrow"

Michael Jaime-Becerra grew up in El Monte, California, a working-class suburb of Los Angeles. He received his MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and currently teaches creative writing at University of California, Riverside. His short-story collection, Every Night Is Ladies’ Night, was named one of the best of the year by the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle. It was awarded a California book award, the Silver Medal for a First Work of Fiction.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, This Time Tomorrow, and reported the following:
On page sixty-nine of my novel, This Time Tomorrow, Gilbert Gaeta, a single father, is chasing some boys who have been harassing his thirteen-year-old daughter, Ana. According to her, the boys ride motor scooters, and so, after they've harassed her in a particularly vile fashion at home, he's gone after them, running down the block to a major intersection:
He ignored the traffic lights, letting the immediate cars pass, continuing into the intersection. He was honked at. Thumping music zoomed by. The signals changed and traffic began moving toward him, cars and heavy trucks, cars and a big yellow RTD bus, cars and more and more cars. On the traffic island he searched to the north, then to the south, but there was too much to survey all at once. The traffic's rushing sounds weakened his determination, and he drifted between the bushes on the long strip of concrete, feeling confused. The kids had probably been on scooters. If so they were long gone.
Gilbert then returns home, where his girlfriend, Joyce, is trying to comfort Ana. Unsure of what has just happened, and desperate for answers, Gilbert asks Ana what is going on:
"'Is it someone at school?'

'I don't know,' she said. She stood and blew her nose. 'Besides, it doesn't matter. If you were Mom, none of this would matter.'
Throughout the book I'm trying to capture the tension between obligation to family and the need for passion and love. This moment shows Gilbert's trouble with the family side of things. He's had trouble talking to Ana (and to Joyce too), partly because he's afraid of whatever truth such a conversation might uncover. Here he is finally pushed to a point of speaking directly to her and the response shocks him. Gilbert is afraid of losing his connection to Ana as she begins to emerge into adulthood, and the invoking of Ana's mother in this moment is especially disturbing to him. It taps into his most deep-seated fear, which would be losing her to his ex-wife, who has been estranged from them for years. That it happens in front of Joyce, whom he hopes to marry, makes the moment even more awful for him.

And while Joyce and Ana will not know it, Gilbert's responses to this conversation will reverberate in their lives throughout the rest of the book.
Read an excerpt from This Time Tomorrow, and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue