Compassion, courage, and a desire to see behind the veil of what we are told about the people, places, and choices of women in this world, is what writer Melissa Coss Aquino hopes readers will take away after learning about her book “Carmen and Grace”.
I hope readers will be encouraged by Carmen and Grace, their courage and love for each other, and hopefully inspired to keep their own love alive, the spark within that makes us want to be and do beautiful and powerful things, even if we don’t always have. success,” says Coss Aquino.
The debut work of the Puerto Rican writer took three decades to make. When Coss Aquino was 23 years old, she began to think of a story: two teenage cousins in The Bronx, involved in the drug trade at a young age, a future they had not imagined and in which they must fight to realize their own dreams and ambitions.
“The idea came to me while I was walking down the Grand Concourse. It was 1993. She was twenty-three years old. I graduated from college in 1991. I had a new marriage, a newborn baby, a stressful job that I loved, and two teenage cousins who lived with me. It was a lot to navigate. I knew almost immediately that I didn’t have the maturity or the distance to write the story the way I saw it in my mind,” she recalls of the book’s beginnings.
It was not until 2020, when the pandemic and the loss of her parents and other relatives pushed her to write the story that had been going around in her head for many years, and that had just been published by the William Morrow publishing house, come true. .
The novel is a drama about the inextricable bond between two young women. Carmen and Grace have been inseparable since childhood, survivors of an upbringing marked by abandonment and addiction, until a woman named Doña Durka bursts into their lives and changes everything.
“The relationships between the characters are a different story. I think that each one has a pressure point along a part of the journey of discovering how to leave, or how to stay and survive, and how to differentiate love from fear as a reason to stay or leave”, explains the author with a PhD. in English from The Graduate Center, CUNY and is currently an Associate Professor at Bronx Community College.
A moving meditation on women’s choices and the legacy of violence, as tough and tender as its two main characters, Carmen and Grace.
“I was changed writing this book, and I hope it can touch readers the way it touched me,” concludes Coss Aquino, who is working on a memoir about the Bronx and Puerto Rico related to his family.
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