Salvador Silva may not seem like a poetic soul. Silva, the protagonist in Benjamin Alire SÃ¡enzâ€™s latest novel, punches out of reflex and isnâ€™t always honest with himself or his friends. Yet somehow his voice is still lyrical and authentic at the same time, a signature mark of SÃ¡enz, who has the uncanny ability of depicting teen boys as both tough and sensitive, gruff and poetic, difficult and tender, beautiful and real.
The punches surprise Salvador, as he has just begun to discover that he is capable of violence. â€œWhen weâ€™re kids, we have a certain idea of who we are. [As we get older] our actions donâ€™t match up with that. We discover weâ€™re not who we thought we were,â€ SÃ¡enz said in an interview during a two-week book tour of The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. â€œWe have to love ourselves with those flaws. It is part of growing up.â€
Helping Salvador learn to live with his flaws are his best friends and his father Vicente, the kind of father we all wish we could have: â€œVicente is a romanticized figure of who I would have liked to have been,â€ SÃ¡enz admits. â€œI always wanted to be a father.â€
While he may not have had the opportunity to raise children, SÃ¡enz has been a mentor and instructor throughout his life and has depicted many memorable parents in his young adult books–a genre where grownups are often in the periphery.
â€œKids find father figures one way or another. They need them. A lot of young men found a father figure in me as a teacher, and thatâ€™s incredibly beautiful and normal.â€
Though his books contain hot-button issues of borders, faith, and so-called â€œalternative families,â€ SÃ¡enz doesnâ€™t set out to be political or make a statement: â€œIâ€™m a citizen. Iâ€™m a human being. Iâ€™m a writer. Everything I believe in will come out in my books, and thatâ€™s the way it is.
SÃ¡enzâ€™s love for his young characters and readers is apparent in his thoughtful depictions of teen life and in the positive response from fans. He has won a variety of awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award and the American Book Award for his adult and poetry books. Yet it is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseÂ that inspires fan art, videos, and songs.
Does he mind that one book garners so much attention?
â€œIt always comes back to Ari and Dante. I think thatâ€™s inevitable, and I think thatâ€™s fine. Because of Ari and Dante, people want to read my next book.â€
Plus, he loves his fans, saying, â€œIâ€™m very touched by them. They are beautiful and dorky and sweet.â€
And, yes, folks, heâ€™s working with a screenwriter on a film script for Ari and Dante–and writing a sequel. â€œI love returning to those characters.â€
Inexplicable Logic, published this month, is getting its own share of praise, though of course critics do exist. â€œSome are disappointed–they say it is all over the map and doesnâ€™t have a plot, but thatâ€™s what they said about Ari and Dante. If they mean I take time to write scenes and get to know characters and spend time with them [so that readers] forget plot, then thatâ€™s fine. I create characters people care about.â€
Characters like Salvadorâ€™s friend, Fito, who has been given every bad break in life–a drug-addicted mother, homeless at 17–but who is also incredibly lovable. â€œThere are kids like that, and they are miracles. They have miserable lives [yet become] great human beings. Iâ€™m in awe of them.â€¦ [There is] no excuse for me not to be a good person.â€
â€œI loved writing Fitoâ€™s character. I loved writing all these characters.â€
Another character in Inexplicable Logic that is close to SÃ¡enzâ€™s heart is Salvadorâ€™s grandmother Mima. Unlike Vicente, SÃ¡enz says that Mima is not romanticized. â€œMima is my mother. My mother was just like that. There are sweet, wise, kind older woman in this world, and my mother was one such person.â€
But even with ideal parents and adults in our lives, life is not without its trials. Thanks to SÃ¡enzâ€™s careful attention to his craft and characters, readers will root for Salvador to find his way.
Tags: author interviews, Benjamin Alire SÃ¡enz, Gay young adult, Interiew, Interviews, Laura Carpenter, LGBT Young Adult, secondary, The Inexplicable Logic of My LifeThe Inexplicable Logic of My Life
Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an American Book Award–winning author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. His first novel for teens, SAMMY AND JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD, was an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book for teens, HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Southwest Book Award, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.
Books by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Inexplicable Logic of My Lifeby Benjamin Alire Saenz - Family, Family Life, Fiction, Young Adult 14+
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universeby Benjamin Alire Saenz - Fiction, Young Adult 12+