What if you could put all your hard feelings—grief, depression, sadness—into the body of another person? That’s the premise of the new speculative young adult novel The Grief Keeper. And the people charged with carrying the grief of others? United States immigrants.
The novel tells the story of two teenage sisters who are forced to leave their native El Salvador. Once in the United States, officials offer the oldest sister a deal: she can help people suffering from PTSD by taking their pain into her own body in exchange for asylum.
Author Alexandra Villasante says she got the idea from a real-life science experiment, about a wearable like a FitBit that PTSD sufferers could use to alleviate symptoms. She wondered, what if you could get rid of symptoms altogether?
“Where would that go, if you were to take somebody’s grief, depression, all the bad feelings that come from traumatic experience—who would take that on?” Villasante said.
As a first-generation American, she knew immigrants were the obvious answer.
Villasante will give a reading in Laramie on Tuesday, October 1—in the middle of Latinx Heritage Month, which runs September 15-October 15.
“Go out there and eat the Latin food,” Villasante said. “Listen to the Latin music, read the Latin books. Because there is such a richness and wide experience of Latinos in this country. If it’s not already part of what you look at, it should be.”
Villasante’s talk is at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon on the University of Wyoming campus, in Health Sciences 105.
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