Saturday, August 17, 2013
Highlighting: Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez
Publication Date: August 29, 2013
Camino del Sol: A Latina and Latino Literary Series
The University of Arizona Press
Tim Z. Hernandez lifts the veil on one of literature’s most mysterious and evocative characters.
Readers across the world know Jack Kerouac and his famous novel, On the Road, but most don’t know that prior to its publication, Kerouac received countless rejections. It wasn’t until an excerpt titled “The Mexican Girl” was published in The Paris Review, earned rave reviews, and found its way into the Best American Short Stories of 1956 anthology that the novel was accepted for publication.
Given the relevance that “The Mexican Girl” had in Kerouac’s career, little has been known about the real “Terry,” actually Bea Franco. In Mañana Means Heaven, acclaimed writer Tim Z. Hernandez pulls Bea from out of the shadows and presents a rich and visionary novel portraying the woman behind the scenes in the novel that defined a generation. As author Paul Maher says, “Hernandez offers a dazzling offshoot from the oft-explored road story that is Kerouac’s.”
Set against an ominous backdrop of California in the 1940s, deep in the agricultural heartland of the Great Central Valley, Hernandez’s novel reveals the desperate circumstances that led a married woman to an illicit affair with an aspiring young writer traveling across the United States. When they meet, Franco is a migrant farmworker with two children and a failing marriage, living with poverty, violence, and the looming threat of deportation, while the “college boy” yearns to one day make a name for himself in the writing world. The significance of their romance poses vastly different possibilities and consequences.
Franco was sought out by dozens of Kerouac and Beat scholars, but none could find her. According to one, “finding Bea Franco is like trying to find the ghost of a needle in haystack.”
But 55 years after publication of Kerouac’s novel, Hernandez discovered Franco alive, and living in relative obscurity only one mile from his own home in Fresno, California. “It was an alignment, really, that I was able to find her. It just so happened that I knew where to look and who to ask. I have since been fortunate to develop a strong relationship with her and her family."
Based on Franco’s love letters to Kerouac and Hernandez’s interviews with Franco, the novel Mañana Means Heaven brings this lost gem of a story into the spotlight. Featuring a foreword and afterword chronicling Hernandez’s personal quest to find Franco, this novel deftly combines fact and fiction to lift the veil on a character who has lived far too long in the shadows.
Tim Z. Hernandez is a poet, novelist, and performance artist whose awards include the 2006 American Book Award, the 2010 Premio Aztlán Prize in Fiction, and the James Duval Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. In 2011 the Poetry Society of America named him one of sixteen New American Poets. He holds a BA from Naropa University and an MFA from Bennington College and is the author of the novel Breathing, In Dust, as well as three collections of poetry, including the recently released Natural Takeover of Small Things. Learn more at his website, www.timzhernandez.com.
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