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From Dirty Girls to Enlightened Ladies

Chica lit writer Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez challenges genre expectations with her novel The Three Kings.

Q. Can you tell us more about The Rules? Do they have any value?

A. It’s a very old-fashioned approach, and I had sort of dismissed it for a long time. But after my own difficult divorce, which has a lot in common with Christy’s actually, and trying to start dating again in my late 30s and early 40s, I started to think, “Am I doing something wrong that I’m attracting this kind of bad people to me?” I started looking at these books again and, for all of their old-fashioned values that some people would dismiss as anti-feminist, there are some good points. The Rules to me represents the same thing that the Catholic church and traditional Hispanic culture represent in this book, and that is that there are lots of things we can dismiss about these time-honored traditions, but there is also wisdom in them.

Q. Do you have any advice for our readers who are recently divorced, 45-plus and dating again for the first time?

A. The best advice I can give someone on dating is to never follow my advice on dating. Look at me. Why would you do that to yourself? Terrible idea.

Q. How would you describe Christy de la Cruz, the narrator and main character of The Three Kings?

A. She is a talented, motivated and very successful person who has been through a difficult divorce. I see her as being like a lot of girls and women I knew growing up in New Mexico. She has a foot in the South Valley of Albuquerque, which is more the lower-middle-class Hispanic area, and then she has her other foot in the Northeast Heights, which is sort of the more well-to-do area. She is trying to figure out how to navigate her life and feel at home somewhere because there are things she loves about both places and these two places can rarely come together.

Q. This class tension seems to play out most dramatically in Christy’s relationship with her mother.

A. Christy grew up in a humble house in a lower-middle-class neighborhood, and her mother was very thrifty and always taking Christy to swap meets and thrift stores. They’d spend hours there, and her mother would be combing through all kinds of cheap junk looking for that one little gem, and she filled her house with knick-knacks. Part of Christy's impetus for wanting to be a designer was to not have this house of mismatched junk. But she is at a point in her life now of becoming an adult. How many of us dismiss everything about our parents as a process of separating psychologically only to realize we become, at a certain age, very much like them, and we start to respect them? Christy is realizing that her mother — within the constraints of her economic situation — had also been an interior designer, and that’s why they would spend hours and hours searching, otherwise Mom would just have picked up any old junk.

Q. What are you currently working on? Do you still have plans to start your own publishing company?

A. I’m currently working on this young adult series called The Kindred, and it’s coming out next year. I have no immediate plans to start my own publishing company, I think that’s a few years off. I want to wait and see what happens with The Dirty Girls TV show and these other projects that I’m taking on. I’m also trying to write a movie that is not based on a book at all.

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