Saturday, May 19, 2012

Guest Author: Terry Marshall

After college and a year on a newspaper, I joined the Peace Corps and spent two wonderful years in Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines. That experience changed my life. I went as a journalist and came back convinced I would spend my life in international development. I went back to college, got a master’s degree in rural development, then moved into the Mexican-American barrio in my rural Colorado hometown and set out to fight the discrimination and poverty I’d been blind to growing up.

I got some things done, but mostly I got my butt kicked. So I went back to grad school. I spent three years trying to figure out why I hadn’t changed the world. I studied . . . analyzed . . . even made trips home to interview my old enemies so I could understand our battles from their points of view. Then I wrote a three-volume dissertation on how community change happens – or doesn’t happen.

My work won me a PhD from Cornell University . . . but it didn’t show what poverty and prejudice feel like, or the frustrations in the day-to-day nitty gritty of battling history . . . or all the little “irrelevancies” that get in the way – like family feuds and love affairs and personal quirks and stupidities. So I rethought the whole thing. I invented a town and a set of fictional characters who go well beyond my own experiences.

The result: my novel, Soda Springs: Love, Sex, and Civil Rights. It tells a rollicking coming of age tale that weaves love, sex, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 Birmingham campaign into the previously untold story of a Mexican-American community’s battle for civil rights. It confronts those topics our mothers told us to steer clear of in polite company: sex… religion… politics… racial conflict.

But more than that, it’s the real story of what happens when you try to change a tiny corner of the world. It shows that fiction really can speak to the truth more accurately than real life.

Like all my work, Soda Springs probes a world where men and women of different cultures collide. They struggle with loneliness, misunderstanding, anger, confusion, conflict, hatred, at times violence. They rejoice in insights sparked by cross-cultural friendships. They fall in love, satiate their libidos, suffer from their excesses. At times, they're comic or silly or embarrassing, and sometimes, infuriating. They let us in on their innermost thoughts – and we agonize as they cope with the pickles they get themselves into. Their fictional stories entertain, enlighten, and, we hope, give pause for thought.
The Soda Springs electronic edition won first prize for illustrations in a fiction book in Dan Poynter’s 2011 Global eBook Awards competition. The novel itself was a finalist both in the Adult Multicultural Literature and the Teen Literature categories.

For an introduction to Rick Sanders’ and Concha Montoya’s Soda Springs, visit or


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