As funny as it sounds, the idea for my thesis novel Treasure Hills started on a Sunday morning back in November of 1993. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and part of our Sunday ritual, my dad would ask me to help him cook his weekly batch of frijoles charro. The genesis of my love of cooking began then with those sessions with my dad. I would wake up at six am which was a feat for any thirteen-year-old and begin rinsing and sorting the five pound of beans needed for my family of five. Meticulously, I threw out the rocks and hard pieces I could find, then rinse the beans several times over in a colander. Once done, I would let them soak in a pot of cold water for at least four hours. When that happened, my dad would finally wake up and begin helping me prepare the vegetables. My dad had a vegetable garden outside that he had been tending to ever since I could remember. He’d grow cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers along with other herbs. While my dad grabbed stuff from the garden, I’d dice up onions and bacon into small tidbits that I would add to a giant brown bowl. My dad would also dice up the veggies from outside into the same bowl. After the beans had soaked up the water, we gave them a final rinse and replaced the water in the pot and added the veggies and spices needed to make frijoles charro.
It would be then, that when the smell of oregano, cumin and beans would float in the air, that the rest of my family would begin to wake in succession. It was this rare alone time with my dad cooking that made me think of writing a novel not only to memorialize my dad but to honor him in a way that he would approve of. Honestly, my dad and I didn’t leave on the best of terms. He passed away from cancer almost a decade ago, while I was out of town. It was that single event that scarred me for most of my middle adult life. It wasn’t until I decided to write about in him my novel that the scars surrounding me began to scab off and heal. So, whenever I feel down about missing out on my dad’s passing, I think about those Sunday mornings growing up cooking and just spending time with him. Even though we didn’t say much to each other then, I knew that I had a dad that loved me and I’m hoping he knew that I loved him too. I think that most anyone can relate to having a difficult relationship with their parents and how overcoming those difficult times can be a rewarding experience. I know that having a specific voice from a gay Latino background can seem a bit limiting to its audience reach, but it has been my experience that the more culturally specific, the wider appeal a writer can become. Since this is not a persona but just myself filtered through the characters I create in my novels, I will have no issue with clearly communicating this across all my mediums. In doing so, my audience will hopefully get to know the real me, through my work.