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Author relates story of Central Valley migrant family

Author relates story of Central Valley migrant family

"Chicana" is the story of author Debra Boroughs' mother and grandmother during their time as migrant farm workers in the Central Valley.

POSTED December 7, 2010 10:01 p.m.

A story of hardships, perseverance and the bonds of family ties that span the generations are played out on the pages of former Turlock resident Debra Boroughs’ newly released memoir “Chicana.”

The experience related to Burroughs by her grandmother and mother left a lasting impression that Burroughs has transformed into her first novel.

Burroughs moved to Turlock at the age of 15 and started honing her writing talents as the assistant editor for the high school newspaper The Clarion and writing a high school viewpoint column called “It’s High Time” for the Turlock Journal. She now lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and their dog. The couple has two grown and married children and her parents and sister reside in Turlock.

Q. Describe the concept of the “Chicana.” 

A. The book is a memoir of stories my grandmother and mother told me as I was growing up about how my grandmother came to the United States from Mexico, illegally, as a child and the hardships she and her family faced.  It is also stories of my mother’s life as the oldest of my grandmother’s 10 children in a migrant farm worker family and the hardships and difficulties she endured, how she managed to escape that life as a teenager, and how she came back to rescue my grandmother and the younger siblings from it.  There is a little of my story, but only in my childhood.  And it starts out in the prologue with my daughter graduating from college.  So you could say it covers four generations of women in my family.   It is a story of overcoming adversities, of family, and even has a little romance in it.

Q. What inspired you to tell this story to a larger audience? 

A. As I have often relayed to friends the different stories I heard growing up, many of them said, “You should write a book about that.”   Immigration, legal and illegal, is so much in the media today.  So often we don’t think of how difficult life is for many of the people who come here from other countries and what they had to do to stay here.  People born here don’t often appreciate the opportunities this country has to offer, compared to many other countries.

Q. What was your research process like? 

A. Besides remembering the stories my grandmother told me growing up, and my mother as well, I did some research on the Internet.  I also have a lot of photos, documents, and additional stories and details from my mother.

Q. What was the experience like of writing it? 

A. As a memoir, I find it easier to write about the stories you know, rather than inventing a fictional story.  But the hard part came when writing about the difficult things my mother and grandmother went through; some of it was gut-wrenching for me to describe and to write.  It took me about a year, including several editorial processes.

Q. How did the title come about? 

A. I thought of it from the very beginning, and my publisher liked it.  Very short and to the point.  Chicana means a Hispanic female.  So I thought it was very appropriate as the story is the history of four generational Hispanic females in one family, starting as an illegal immigrant child up to a present-day college graduate.

Q. What was the most eye-opening experience you had while putting the book together? 

A. The publishing industry is changing drastically.  The traditional publisher that gives you an advance, publishes your book and promotes it for you is fading away.  I believe that is only about 14 percent of books that get published today. That is unless you are George W. Bush or Sarah Palin, etc., where the publisher pays for them to do national book tours.  Today, many people self publish or use publishing companies that are a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing.  The good thing about that is you can make a lot more money per book doing the self-publishing or hybrid publishing, the bad thing is that you have to do a lot of the marketing of the book yourself.  I’m trying to get all over the Internet and am often doing book signings in my general area.  My book has only been out about a month, so I am just on the beginning of the marketing journey.

“Chicana” is available at and other online book retailers.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.


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