Author: Maria E. Andreu

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5192-0

E-book ISBN: 978-0-7624-5205-7

Where is the young person’s community when the mainstream society says you’re White, but you’re Argentinian family pulls you into another direction.

Maria E. Andreu’s coming of age character MT walks by her mother without looking at her. The mother cleans MT’s high school and MT’s White mainstream friends might be embarrassed at thinking the female cleaner is connected to MT. 

MT wants to fit in. She shortens her name from Monserrat Thalia to MT to avoid explaining her past. That becomes the vice of emptiness — a state of alienation, depression. A void. Or separation. A sense many Latinos feel, especially those who don’t have legal documents. 

Emptiness could also be invisible. Where is the Latino when White Mexicans shun Diego and Frida’s art? Where are they in the image of the Guatemalan flag when that Quetzal was killed by the Spanish conquistador Alvarado?  

MT is invisible as The Secret Side of Empty explores the ways people become invisible to others. MT’s senior year in high school draws her more into an empty world. Her skin is more White than other Latinas. But she feels more American than Argentinian where she fled with her family.

But MT is invisible. She can’t share her full spirit with Nate, a sensitive yet upper class boyfriend with a family that seems to thrive on shopping in the mall. MT can’t share her hopes with a father who dreams of returning to the European-focused streets of Argentina. And she can’t even tell her fears to Chelsea, a childhood friend from kindergarden.

A major difference between nonfiction and fiction’s effect on readers is the way the reader obtains information. The distance seen between the person and the viewer of the alienated state in nonfiction makes the topic an item for cocktail conversations.

But MT’s emptiness in a novel brings the viewer to the shoes of the character. Andreu takes you though the daily life obstacles and private sensations of MT. 

Readers probably know something about the struggle immigrants face, but Andreu’s hand grabs the reader to whirl beyond the tip of the hearsay. She whisks you through the daily life where a trembling glance at a policeman makes you fear deportation. 

She dashes your hopes by contrasting the future. MT yearns to further her energy as an honor student who excels in English. But she drowns with the knowledge that college is another borderline — no papers, no college.

MT wraps emptiness around her like the drain of hope. When hope leaves, people can’t just constantly strive. No light shines at the end of a tunnel.  

Her day becomes filled with looking over her shoulder to avoid an authority figure tapping into a database to find her status. She rides a bike because a driver’s license requires papers. She avoids going home at times to see a mother who cowers under the macho power of father. Can she find ways to reverse her slide?

How does MT remain truthful to a love that could thrive in the future? Nate strikes readers as the ideal of a sharing partner. But he still lives beyond MT’s zone of trust. Fears about telling him why she can’t go to college make her silent. His world of KNICK prime-box seating holds friends who could view her as an alien.

How does MT plan to grow past her itinerant father? Her father distrusts books or anything in the country. Her love of language that leads her to a tutoring job seems miles away from her possibilities. Her visit to a college where a feisty teacher demands questioning norms could inspire many. But MT reels with the believe that these teasers burn the soul — like the tortured lament from Dulcina in Don Quixote.  

And how does her fear of the unknown coming from deportation mix with the fear of a beating from father when she shows some knowledge of learning? Such is the vacuum that draws MT into that spiral of hopeless paralysis.

Yet, this is the same MT that reached out to tutor students when she needed money. The same MT who spent time with Nate’s other world. And the same MT who avoids some of her father’s violence. Could she turn her strengths up a higher level to overcome her obstacles? 

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