A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.
Evan and Alma have spent fifteen years living in the same town, connected in a dozen different ways but also living worlds apart until the day he jumps into her dad's truck and slams on the brakes.
The nephew of a senator, Evan seems to have it all - except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two, surrounded by a large (sometimes smothering) Mexican family. They both want out of this town. His one-way ticket is soccer; hers is academic success.
When they fall in love, they fall hard, trying to ignore their differences. Then Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins raids in their town, and Alma knows that she needs to share her secret. But how will she tell her country-club boyfriend that she and almost everyone she's close to are undocumented immigrants?
What follows is a beautiful, nuanced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one's family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives. This page-turning debut asks tough questions, reminding us that love is more powerful than fear in Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||7.90(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
MARIE MARQUARDT is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and author of The Radius of Us and Flight Season. She has published articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. Marie is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives in a busy household in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse, four children, a dog, and a bearded dragon.
Read an Excerpt
Dream Things True
By Marie Marquardt
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Marie Marquardt
All rights reserved.
If you grab a machete blade near the bottom, just above the handle, it won't cut through your skin. That's what Alma was thinking, riding in her dad's truck way too early in the morning on the last Wednesday of summer.
Alma knew a lot about machetes — one of the perks of her summer job, if you could call it that. So, pondering the machete wedged behind her seat, she composed a list of facts in her head, hoping that a mind full of machete facts wouldn't have room for anxiety.
Machete hooks are great for pruning blackberry and blueberry bushes.
She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them as her dad maneuvered the pickup truck from their barrio into the rich part of town.
In the traditional dances of many Latin American countries, men wear machetes as part of the costume: the cumbia in Colombia, capoeira (which, technically, is a martial art) in Brazil, and Mexican Matachines, to name just a few.
Alma hugged her knees tighter and sucked in a deep breath. Her stomach started to churn, and her hands got clammy.
Her dad always said that if he could only have one tool, it would be a machete.
"Papi," she said tentatively, "there's something I need to ask you."
Her father shot her the look — the one that told her she'd better switch into Spanish if she knew what was good for her.
"There's this anthropology class at the community college I want to take. It's after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays," she said in Spanish.
In five days — on August 20, 2007 — Alma would start her junior year of high school.
She had been dreading the day for months. Now that it rapidly approached, she knew of only one way to lessen the pain. If she was fated to waste her time at Gilberton High School every day, she could at least take college classes after school.
One problem: she knew her dad would say no. Wasn't this supposed to be any parent's dream?
"¿Y cómo lo vas a pagar, hija?"
"I've saved enough money to pay the tuition."
"¿De verdad?" He said this with a knowing grin. "Do you know how much those classes cost?"
"I looked online, and —"
"¿En la tarde?" her dad interrupted.
She saw exactly where this was going. Sometimes, Alma couldn't believe how absurd her life was.
"Sí, Papi, in the afternoon, but —"
"But what about your primas?" He chuckled softly. "Will your cousins come to class with you?"
Now he was making fun of her. Fantastic.
"Can't Uncle Rigo watch them for a couple of hours? I mean, he is their father!"
"Your tío Rigo is recovering from a severe back injury, Alma."
Alma considered asking why, if Uncle Rigo was in so much pain, he went out fishing with his buddies every weekend. Remembering that success was her goal, she kept her mouth shut and considered alternative strategies.
"What if I ask Tía Pera to adjust her schedule at the plant?"
"Pera is lucky to have gotten her position back at the plant, Alma. She can't go to her boss asking for special favors."
How could she possibly be lucky to spend eight hours a day as a backup killer at the poultry plant, Alma wondered. Her aunt spent her days gripping a lethally sharp knife in each hand and watching an endless row of headless chickens move slowly by, dangling from their feet. Her job was to chop off the heads of the lucky chickens that made it through the killing machines alive.
Sometimes Alma felt as helpless as those chickens.
Alma was not even seventeen yet, but she had experienced enough to know that there are certain days in a life — moments, even — when the unexpected happens. Just like the swift swipe of a machete, it cuts through your life and leaves behind something entirely new. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes both at once.
Like that morning in eighth grade, when Mrs. King pulled Alma into her office. Mrs. King was the new middle school counselor, and probably the largest small woman Alma had ever met. She was the kind of woman with wrists so narrow that her bones stuck out, but somehow everything about her seemed oversized, all the way down to her deep and resonant laugh. She transferred in halfway through the year, and brought with her the perfect strategy for luring middle schoolers into her office. The smell of unusual homemade sweets wafted through her door: devil's food cake, buttermilk pie, candied pecans, sweet potato cheesecake. No chocolate-chip cookies, no brownies. They were "too ordinary."
The office was filled with bookshelves and the distinctive aroma of roasted peanuts. A degree from Spelman College covered the narrow strip of available wall space, just above a certificate of recognition from the Association of Black Psychologists. Apparently Mrs. King was part of something called the "Disaster Relief Task Force." Strangely, that made Alma feel hopeful.
She sat Alma down and offered her a hefty chunk of homemade peanut brittle.
"I have a plan," she told Alma. "And I know you're gonna like it."
Alma bit off a piece of peanut brittle and let it slowly melt in her mouth as Mrs. King began.
"We're going to find another high school for you — a good one."
The local school, Gilberton High, wasn't a bad school, but it was the kind of place where Latino boys were funneled into classes like Fundamentals of Construction, and the girls wasted their time in glorified home economics classes, carrying around eggs for a week as a way to practice caring for babies.
"Really?" Alma asked, wiping the crumbs away from her mouth. "I mean, is that even possible?"
Until that day, no one had ever told her there might be an alternative.
Mrs. King pulled out a map of north Georgia.
"Show me where you've got family, sweetheart."
When Alma's sticky finger landed on north Atlanta, Mrs. King set the plan into motion. She laid out a future filled with possibilities: top-ranked teachers, advanced placement classes, college admissions counselors, scholarships and university degrees. Alma would live with cousins in Atlanta and attend one of the best high schools in the state — if they could convince her dad.
Mrs. King, Alma soon discovered, was a very patient woman. Or hardheaded. First, she tried reason with Mr. García, bringing a stack of standardized test scores over to Alma's house and sitting at the dining room table with Alma's dad. The conversation went something like this:
Mrs. King: "Are you aware of how unusual it is for a child to score consistently in the ninety-eighth percentile?"
Alma's dad: "Yes, and my Alma will have this score next year again, here with her family in Gilberton."
Mrs. King then suggested that Alma resort to "good ol'-fashioned bribery." Here's how that conversation went:
Alma: "I'll work for you every summer if you let me go, Papi. Te lo prometo. I promise, every single day, all day."
Alma's dad: "Yes, you will, just like your brother, as soon as you turn fifteen."
Alma: "So I can go? To Atlanta?"
Alma's dad: "No, hija. How will you work for me here in Gilberton if you're living over there in Atlanta?"
Apparently Alma was expected to do the work anyway, not only in the summer but every weekend during the school year, too — which, by the way, is why it would be a big stretch to call this her "summer job."
When Mrs. King told her to give it one last try, Alma even tried guilting her dad by bringing up her mother. That conversation was so painful that Alma had blocked it out of her memory. Basically, her dad insisted that Alma's mom would have wanted their family to be together, no matter what. It looked like Alma would be heading to Gilberton High School.
But then came another machete moment.
Alma met Mario at a family party three weeks before the start of high school. He was a recién llegado — recently arrived from their hometown in Mexico. He was probably a third cousin or something since everyone from their hometown seemed to be related. Anyway, he followed her around all night while she was taking care of her little cousins.
The two of them stood and watched boys throw themselves against the mesh walls of the trampoline, and Mario looked so pathetically sad and lonely that Alma decided to make conversation.
"How do you like Gilberton?" she asked in Spanish.
"It's OK," he replied.
That was all he said. Squeaking trampoline springs filled their awkward silence.
"Are you working at Silver Ribbon?" she asked.
He nodded once but said nothing.
Alma already knew that, like almost everyone else who came from her hometown in Mexico, Mario had a job at the chicken plant. Her tía Dolores always scored the newcomers a job there.
"What's your station?" she asked, not having any idea how else to make conversation.
"Killing floor," he said, focusing intently on the pack of boys as they hurled themselves from the trampoline. "Cleanup."
So he spent his days mopping blood and feathers from the killing floor. No wonder he was miserable.
Alma felt so sorry for him that, when he cornered her against the rusty trampoline and tried to kiss her, she let him. He groped at her body with clumsy hands while forcing his tongue into her mouth and swirling it around in swift circles. It felt like she was on some crazy roller coaster ride. To make matters worse, he was chewing Big Red gum, which filled her mouth with an overwhelming burning sensation.
She should have known that the burn would foreshadow worse things to come.
Her dad showed up just as she was disentangling herself from Mario's roving hands. Glaring at Mario, he took Alma by the forearm and pulled her away. They marched directly to his Bronco without exchanging a single word. He opened the back door and pushed her in, not roughly but definitely not gently either.
"Stay here," he grumbled, his eyes burning with anger.
She watched as he slammed the door, trapping her in the car. He went inside and came out moments later with Raúl, Alma's older brother. The two of them found Mario cowering behind the trampoline. To their credit, Alma's dad and brother used only their words to make Mario retreat from the party. As Raúl headed toward the car, her dad went to exchange words with his sister, Alma's tía Dolores. Presumably, he was trying to guard Alma's purity.
Raúl jumped into the passenger seat and looked back at her, grinning wickedly.
"Jesus, Alma," he said. "If you're gonna hook up in front of the entire family, you should at least pick a guy who's willing to throw a punch at your brother."
"I'll keep that in mind," Alma replied.
"That guy was a loser," Raúl said. "And you, my little hermanita, are in deep shit."
No one endured the killing floors for long, but Mario's move was quietly expedited by Tía Dolores. He was long gone by now, probably working construction in another state.
For years, Alma had dreamed that her first kiss would unlock the meaning of that weird English word "swoon." Instead, it resulted in constant mocking from her big brother, several brutal days of nonstop chores, and the need to avoid anything cinnamon flavored for life. To this day, Alma couldn't stand the smell of Big Red.
Here's the miracle, though — the unexpected outcome: After Alma's dad caught Mario kissing her, he was terrified that she would start clandestinely dating the eighteen-year-old. So he called Mrs. King.
Within a week, Alma was packing her bags for Atlanta.
Now, two years later, Alma was back, riding in her dad's crappy work truck through this crappy town and facing, five days from now, the start of her junior year at Gilberton High School, home of the Fighting Red Elephants. How appropriate. Alma's misery at this return was the big red elephant in the room that her father refused to acknowledge.
She was going to make her dad see things her way.
"OK, Dad, listen ..."
Her dad sent a fierce glare in her direction.
She tried again. "Papi, it's just not fair that I have to be the one to fix all of this. Things were going so well for me, Papi, and now I have to come back to Gilberton and probably ruin my chances to get into college, all so that I can take care of my cousins."
Her father opened his mouth to speak, but she pressed on. "Wait, Papi, please let me finish. I just wish you'd work with me to make this situation better for me. If I can take classes at the community college, I just might keep from losing my mind at that lame excuse for a high school."
Her dad jerked to a stop and killed the ignition. He turned to face her squarely, and deep creases took shape across his forehead.
"Alma Julia García-Menendez, I have heard enough from you," he growled angrily. Then he switched into rapid-fire Spanish. "You think I haven't done everything I possibly can to make your life better? You think Gilberton is a 'lame excuse' for a high school? Try growing corn on your dad's small plot of land for prices that have plummeted so far you might as well give it away, while your father spends every week in the city struggling to earn enough money to put some kind of food on the table."
He stopped to catch his breath, but Alma didn't dare say a word.
Her father shook his head slowly and squeezed his eyes shut. "Not once did I complain to my father. Not once did I grumble about making my life better."
He pressed his hand against his forehead, rubbing at the deep creases.
"Where have I gone wrong, Alma? Tell me, what have I done to give you the impression that this life is all about you?"
Alma said nothing. She just hugged her knees tighter, wanting to disappear.
Her dad took in a long breath and closed his eyes.
"You, Alma, are not a child," he said softly. "You are a sixteen-year-old woman, and you need to start acting like one. You will come directly home from school every afternoon to take care of your cousins. End of discussion."
He restarted the truck, and they drove in heavy silence.
He turned off the four-lane highway into the manicured Lakeshore Heights neighborhood. They pulled into a steep driveway leading to a stately colonial home. He lightly touched her arm, pulled the machete from behind her seat, and stepped out of the truck.
"I'll get started on the lawn," he said. "Why don't you take a few minutes to finish your coffee and then prune the roses here in the front?"
Maybe for a couple of years, she had been lucky. But her luck had run out.
* * *
Damn, it was hot.
Running in Georgia in August was brutal. It sort of felt like running through the steam room at the club, but without a cold water dispenser nearby.
Sprinting toward his house, heart pounding and legs aching, Evan fixed his focus on the crest of the hill. When he reached the top, he lengthened his gait and shifted into an easy jog. A vaguely familiar red pickup truck was parked in his driveway, with two lean, tanned legs dangling from the open passenger window. They wore black Chuck Taylor high-tops that swung to a slow rhythm, but no music was coming from the truck.
Evan wanted to meet the girl attached to those legs.
He heard the sound of metal crunching against metal and then saw that the truck was beginning to roll backward, toward the street. The legs flailed, and he heard the girl calling out as she clamored over to the driver's seat.
Against his better judgment, Evan ran toward the truck, which was slowly gaining speed.
He saw the girl balancing a coffee mug precariously with one hand as she banged the other against the steering wheel.
"¡Es mierda! You are such a useless piece of crap!"
The truck began to move fast.
"Pull the emergency brake!" Evan yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth.
She swung around to look at him and gasped.
"Where is it?"
How was he supposed to know? He'd never even been inside a Ford truck.
"Just push the foot break!" he called out.
"I can't find it!"
The truck had almost reached the street. Its momentum would slow on the level road, but it would soon hit a steep downhill slope and head directly toward the Crawfords' house, with the girl still inside.
Evan ran faster.
"Open the door," he yelled.
"No!" she replied. "Are you nuts?"
"Let me in."
When the truck hit the street, the door swung open and Evan flung himself toward it. Grasping the window frame, he slid into the seat. His foot found the emergency brake and pressed down. The movement felt familiar, just like sliding into a goal, except that he had landed on a girl and knocked the coffee out of her hand.
The truck came to an abrupt stop, and Evan jumped out. The girl bolted out behind him, escaping just before the coffee made it to the edge of her shorts. She whipped around, swiping at her rear.
Evan watched, feeling both annoyed and, he had to admit, entertained by the jerky motions of her coffee-avoidance dance.
Her cheeks flushed a deep red as her dark eyes met his.
"Sorry," she said. "I don't drive."
Excerpted from Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt. Copyright © 2015 Marie Marquardt. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Machete Moments,
3. Night Swimming,
5. Dream in the Desert,
7. Red Elephant,
8. Fire Alarm,
10. Snow White,
12. Too Sweet,
14. The Clock Is Wrong,
17. Sins of the Father,
18. Terrora Dam,
19. St. Jude, Plead for Us,
20. Voluntary Removal,
21. Fishing Without a License,
23. Flowering Cactus,
24. Sweet Georgia Rain,
26. Broken Parts,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alma is less than happy to be leaving her academically challenging high school in Atlanta to return to the small town of Gilbertson to help take care of her cousins. She always thought Atlanta was her ticket to something better. Now, Alma isn't sure how she'll get out of Gilbertson and away from her overbearing father. She just knows she has to try. Alma's brother let his status as an undocumented Mexican immigrant keep him away from his dreams. Alma refuses to make the same mistake. Evan has never had to think much about immigration. He's never had to think about a lot thanks to his family's wealth and privilege. Like Alma, Evan's family wants to keep him close but Evan knows college is his chance to get away before he settles for the life his distant father has planned. When Alma and Evan meet, their attraction is immediate and undeniable. Despite their different lives and other obstacles, the unlikely couple falls in love. But with family pulling them in different directions and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids threatening Alma and her friends and family, Evan and Alma will have to work harder than ever to be together in Dream Things True (2015) by Marie Marquardt. Dream Things True is Marquardt's first novel. Marquardt has done extensive work with an advocating for Mexican immigrants as outlined in her author bio. The story is written in a close third person point of view that alternates between Evan and Alma's focus. Dream Things True does some things very well. It is an important and timely novel about immigration. It is a diverse title, of course. And, despite the numerous challenges they have to deal with, this book also has a really healthy and positive relationship as Evan and Alma get to know each other and try to help each other. There is a lot of good stuff here and Dream Things True is undoubtedly a valuable novel. However it's also worth noting that it often felt like the portrayals of non-white characters could have been handled better. Evan compares Alma's skintone to coffee with cream in it. An African-American character is described as being lighter skinned. Evan's descriptions of Alma often seemed to portray her as more other and exotic perhaps in a misguided attempt on Marquardt's part to create an authentic male protagonist, perhaps for other reasons. Regardless of intent, it's the one aspect of this novel that repeatedly grated. In order to keep the focus of the novel on immigration issues, several plot points in Dream Things True feel contrived in order to move the plot along. While Alma's father is convincingly problematic, even his logic for why Alma has to return to Gilberston from Atlanta is murky at best. While this focus makes sense, it often made the characters and settings feel one-dimensional by comparison. An ideal choice for readers looking for a light romance that still has some depth, Dream Things True is a thoughtful novel that demonstrates Marquardt is an author to watch.
I received Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt as an e-ARC through NetGalley in return for my honest opinion. I have extremely mixed feelings about this book, and not in a roller coaster of emotion way. The story is sweet and innocent, but the love story between poor, undocumented immigrant, Alma, and rich, popular boy, Evan, was too awkward. It was sweet how they became a couple in sort of a Romeo-Juliet type of way, but as soon as they become a couple the book fast forwards six months into their relationship. The love story itself was not the greatest. Like I said, it was too awkward, but more than that, I feel like the progression of the relationship didn't flow well and their chemistry did not mix. Alma and Evan are both great people, but they didn't challenge each other or have quirky qualities that made them a unique couple. They were puppy love, and I was expecting an epic love story. The book does talk a lot about the issue of undocumented immigration. I have my own views on immigration, but this book let me see a different, darker side to it. There were several times I felt very upset because of the way people were treating Alma and her family when they were working hard to get a better life. Don't get me wrong, a story about a couple from different social classes falling in love, sounded like a great rags to riches story, but I felt as though the book kept throwing the idea of Alma being undocumented in our face. We know she's undocumented, you don't need to harp on it over and over, give me the love story! I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but the ending was not what I wanted. It just kind of stopped. There was no grand finale ending, no final resolution, it just stopped right in the middle of a scene, and I was left sitting there unhappily. This book did have some great parts, but for me the flaws I saw outweighed the beauty in it. Go check the book out for yourself, I may not have enjoyed the book, but you may! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!
Dream Things True is an interesting book. On one hand, it's all about immigration. On another, it's about how people with completely different backgrounds can come together, find something important in each other, & look out for one another. It's also about standing up for what you believe in, facing your mistakes, & righting your wrongs. So there's a lot going on, but most of the side plot doesn't come to light until around the halfway mark. I enjoyed the standing up for what you believe in, the side characters, & righting of wrongs (though one part was also done illegally, which made me realize that so much of the storyline's values were blurry as decisions were made not according to what should be done, but what the characters felt like doing--more on that below); & it pains me to say that my least favorite part of the entire book was the focus on immigration. It was the main storyline, so I understand that that was the point, but the execution came across a bit pushy. Though I felt sorry for Alma's situation, I was never able to fully connect to her/her family. Ms. Marquardt definitely tried to get the reader to understand the laws of immigration & see how biased the local townspeople (law enforcement, politicians, & so on) were being, & she explored consequences of breaking the laws, but even so, though most of the time, decisions/actions made against the illegal immigrants seemed unfair from a HEART's POV, they were still, at the end of the day, (mostly) legal. (Notice I said "mostly". There were a lot of instances where Evan and/or his cohorts were given preferential treatment when they did illegal things. That was not cool.) Basically, it's kind of like someone sneaking into a supermarket, deciding to live there & eat the food, drive the supermarket's delivery trucks, invite the rest of the family to move in, & do other things obviously and blatantly not legal; then not understand why doing all of that was not okay, because, hey, they needed food. (You understand where I'm coming from? Heart strings vs. right & wrong, legal or illegal. Is it fair for them to be hungry? No. Is it fair for their families to be? No. Is it fair that they aren't given the same opportunities? No. Does all of that then make it right to do things not legal? No.) Which is what made DTT difficult for me. I felt Ms. Marquardt trying to pull out that sympathy card over & over, & while I felt it to a certain extent, I also didn't. Maybe that was in the way the story was told. I don't know. All I know is it almost felt as though that was not a learning experience, but a part of the story being shoved down my throat. Another issue I had was understanding the Spanish. There were hardly any specific translations, & though I was able to pick up the gist of most of it, I still didn't understand a lot. What was the point of so much of it if we weren't supposed to know what they were saying? Whose choice was it to leave us all in the dark? So getting the convos, it might have helped me connect to her family more. I'm not sure. Am I glad I read DTT? Mostly. Did I have to finish it to see how everything got tied up? I did. Will I recommend this to anyone looking for a modern Romeo and Juliet story? No. Will I recommend it to anyone wanting to submerge themselves in Mexican culture, romance between two completely different cultures, or people interested in immigration? That would be an emphatic yes.* *Copy received in exchange for honest review
I could not put it down. Evan and Alma are so real you feel like you could bump into then in your own town. I loved them both and felt their love and pain (and heat;). A must read:)