Hello friends and welcome to Color the Shelves!
I’m presenting you today a book that released only a couple days ago, SALTY BITTER SWEET by Mayra Cuevas, which is a story about family and grief filled with delicious food and messy teenagers trying their best to reconcile the different aspects of their lives…in Paris. The entirety of it is set in Paris, following a French-Cuban American main character whose dream is to become a chef, so it’s guaranteed to make you dream of beautiful sights and mouth-watering delicacies. And the author is joining me to talk about all of that and more, so without further ado, here’s what we chatted about:
Hello Mayra, thank you for joining me today for this interview! The first thing that jumped at me when reading SALTY BITTER SWEET is that food takes a huge part in many cultures and I know Cuban culture is no different, can you tell us what that means for you and and your main character?
Food is usually at the center of many Latin gatherings. It’s a path to identity, culture and history. It serves as a conduit for traditions to be passed from one generation to the next. It also strengthens familial bonds and provides an opportunity to give of yourself to those you love. Food also nourishes us during challenging times. For example, when my parents were getting divorced, my abuelas’ cooking became a source of love and stability in my life. Their rice and beans were like a soothing balm to the soul. I used these experiences as I was creating Isa’s world. In Salty, Bitter, Sweet food serves as a vehicle for memories of grief, love and compassion.
What are some of Isabella’s favorite dishes to make and/or eat?
Isa adores her abuela, Lala’s Cuban-American apple pie. The crust is warm and flaky, with just the perfect amount of butter, and the apples are cooked in a delicious syrup made with sugar and spices. It’s heaven, if heaven was a dessert — which let’s face it, it should be!
To Isa, this pie represents a mosaic of shared memories with Lala. The smell of cinnamon and taste of crisp Granny Smith apples transports her back to Lala’s kitchen, and the love they shared comes rushing back. Through this recipe, Isa can keep Lala alive in her heart forever and share Lala’s magic with the world.
SALTY, BITTER, SWEET explores all kinds of relationships from complicated family dynamics, to romance and friendships, what was your favorite relationship to write?
My favorite relationship to write was the female friendships between Isa, Lucia and Pippa. Isa has never met other girls who love cooking as much as she does. So initially she feels like she has finally found her tribe. The problem is that Lucia and Pippa are also her competition. Things get even more heated when Lucia and Isa fall for the same guy. Eventually, Isa must learn the power of female friendships and the importance of belonging to a sisterhood. Female friends lift us up when we are down, help us come into our own, they provide encouragement, and fill the emotional gaps left by our other relationships. Female friends have the power to change our lives.
The book also explores an array of topics, what are some themes and elements that you incorporated into the story that were important for you to discuss?
This book is also about how we measure success in a world that is constantly promoting external standards. We need to check, is our view of success — and access to it — limited by someone else’s definition? If so, why? Why are we giving others such power over our own happiness? In truth, when we guide ourselves by others’ measure of success we lose sight of who we are and what we want to become.
I want this book to empower girls to find success on their own terms. I believe that girls everywhere can forge a pathway for their dreams — even in male-dominated spaces, like the world of haute cuisine depicted in the book. But more importantly, I want them to ask the question: What is meaningful to me? In this way, they can take control of their narrative, re-define success for themselves and chart a course to achieve their goals.
Last but not least, what’s something you want your reader to get out of your story or something you’d like to tell them?
Salty, Bitter, Sweet is a story full of delicious food, strong family bonds, female friendships and lots of love. It was born out of my own family’s experience with divorce, grief, new beginnings and the healing power of food made with love. At a time when only 5% of all kids books published feature Latinx protagonists or story lines — of which, only 34% were actually written or illustrated by Latinx creators — I am very proud to be writing stories that represent the complexities of our culture and celebrate the things we hold dear. Young readers deserve to see themselves in the heroes of the story and the authors who create them.
*Statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center and Lee & Low Books.
About the author
Mayra’s YA contemporary #OwnVoices debut SALTY, BITTER, SWEET hits shelves on March 2020. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Mayra is a professional journalist and fiction writer who prefers love stories with a happy ending. Her debut fiction short story was selected by best-selling author Becky Albertalli to appear in the Foreshadow YA serial anthology Issue 04 in April 2019. She is currently a special projects producer and writer for CNN. She keeps her sanity by practicing Buddhist meditation and serving on the Board of Directors of Kadampa Meditation Center Georgia. She lives with her husband, also a CNN journalist, and their cat, in the charming town of Norcross, Georgia. She is also the step-mom to two amazing young men who provide plenty of inspiration for her stories. Her claim to fame came as her family appeared in Season 2 of Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers.
About the book
Publication date : March 3rd, 2020
Publisher : Blink | Harpercollins
Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary
Page Count: 360
Synopsis : A slow-burn romance in a cutthroat kitchen! There’s more to becoming a top chef for 17-year-old Isabella Fields than just not getting chopped … especially when the chances of things heating up with an intriguing boy and becoming a food star in the kitchen are both on the chopping block.
Aspiring chef Isa’s family life has fallen apart after the death of her Cuban abuela and the divorce of her parents. She moves in with her dad and her new stepmom, Margo, in Lyon, France, where Isa feels like an outsider in her father’s new life. Isa balances her time between avoiding the awkward, “why-did-you-cheat-on-Mom” conversation with figuring out how a perpetually single woman can at least be a perpetually single chef.
The upside of Isa’s world being turned upside-down?
Her father’s house is located only 30 minutes away from the restaurant of world-famous Chef Pascal Grattard, who runs a prestigiously competitive international kitchen apprenticeship. The prize job at Chef Grattard’s renowned restaurant also represents a transformative opportunity for Isa who is desperate to get her life back in order—and desperate to prove she has what it takes to work in an haute kitchen. But Isa’s stress and repressed grief begin to unravel when the attractive, enigmatic Diego shows up unannounced with his albino dog.
How can Isa expect to hold it together when she’s at the bottom of her class at the apprenticeship, her new stepmom is pregnant, she misses her abuela dearly, and things with the mysterious Diego reach a boiling point?
That’s it until next time.
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.