Baseball, Earthquakes And The Healing Power Of Friendship In San Diego Author’s New Book

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Chris Baron’s middle-grade novel-in-verse, “The Magical Imperfect,” is set in the Bay Area during the 1989 World Series, following the friendship of two young outcasts as they navigate ancestry, illness, magic and the earth cracked open.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego author and professor Chris Barron has a new book out a middle grade novel written in verse called the magical imperfect. The story takes place in the bay area against the backdrop of the 1989 world series and the massive earthquake. We follow the friendship of eight ton and Malia to outsiders and the family, community, and world around them. The magical imperfect is Baron. Second, middle grade novel inverse. After his noteworthy debut, all of me he’ll be honored at the San Diego writers festival on Saturday with the 2021 San Diego festival award. Chris Barron recently spoke to KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. And here’s that interview,

Speaker 2: 00:46 Let’s start with the format of this book and novel in verse the plot unfolds similarly to a prose novel, but there’s this ramped up magic and beauty to each page here. Can you talk a little bit about what else poetry brings to the narrative and why you made this style choice?

Speaker 3: 01:08 I feel like sometimes versus my native language, I’ve always loved writing poetry, but you’re absolutely right. All the elements of storytelling, plod, character setting conflict, they’re all there, but I think verse brings even another dimension to it. And there’s kind of an intimacy with the reader that happens in a verse novel, um, and there’s space on the page for the reader to breathe and to imagine and participate in the novel a little bit more, which I found to be a really cool effect of verse novels. I also think verse can explore like the internal landscape of a character a bit more, especially for middle-grade readers. They have so much going on inside. You know, if you ask them how their day went, they might just say good, but we know there’s just so much happening inside that they want to share. And I think verse allows for that more internal landscape that intimacy with their thoughts and emotions to come out. I

Speaker 2: 02:01 Want to talk about your characters, uh, Eaton struggles with F form of selective mutism since his mother had to be hospitalized. And then there’s Malia likey, tan cheese, an outcast. If, if you could, could you tell us a little bit about these characters and what it is that Malia and Eaton can find in each other?

Speaker 3: 02:24 Yeah, I, I think I’ve always, I mean, personally love stories of the outcasts who kind of find each other and realize that they’re not really outcasts, that they’re completely valuable and important as anyone else. And for Aton, you know, a thing happened to him, his mother left suddenly because of she had a deal with her, you know, her medical situation and he just stopped talking in the book he talks about, he thinks maybe his words went with her and he doesn’t really know why, but because of it, because he can’t talk the way maybe he wants to, he can’t participate in things. I think the kids them a bit like an outcast and from Aaliyah, you know, she’s dealing with very severe eczema, so bad that she’s teased and bullied and has to be homeschooled because the kids at school call her the creature, even though she’s this vibrant dynamic character. And they really bring out the best in each other when they finally do get a chance to meet

Speaker 2: 03:20 Place. And history is really important in this story, particularly this very, very famous backdrop of, of the earthquake. And there’s a point in time as we approach that notorious world series that you start titling these poems almost like miniature chapters with a specific timestamp. And I was on the edge of my seat when you’re writing about historical events in real places. What drives you? And as this wrapped up in your own experience with this game,

Speaker 3: 03:54 I think that, you know, I’ve, this is my second book about the bay area. So clearly my time living there really had an impact on me and that setting, but I absolutely loved writing those parts of the book and imagining these earthquakes and, you know, the impact that earthquakes have on young people, um, because something so solid as the earth suddenly isn’t anymore. And it’s such a powerful sort of metaphor for kids growing up as the world shakes and changes. And also because it’s historical, I had so much fun, not, you know, thinking of the horrible earthquake, but just doing the research. There’s so much live action footage of it happening because it took place during the world series. And so just imagining those chats, you know, how the chapters are run and the moments leading up to it, it really wrote itself in the sense that it had to be broken down into those bits, what was happening in the world, what was happening for the characters, um, what was happening in the environment directly around them and how everything broke apart and comes back together slowly. It was such a great way to sort of write the story.

Speaker 2: 05:01 There’s a scene in the book where Eaton’s father, that son of a refugee, he tries to help Eaton understand what it might mean for the giants to come back from two losses. This is before game three, by talking about resilience. And he’s talking about what his grandfather and other immigrants went through. Also what Malia goes through with her skin condition. Can you tell us a little bit about this immigrant story and the way you use these metaphors throughout the book?

Speaker 3: 05:32 That’s a really important part of the story and the theme of that particular chapter is this idea of what are we made of, and as you know, the clay is a big part of the story. There’s a kind of a magic clay in the story and you know, this idea of being made of something tough. So that’s kind of the banter they have back and forth to discuss this topic because the people who founded this town came on a boat and immigrated through angel island and went through such an incredible and powerful process of just immigrating. Lots of people know about going through Ellis island, but many people came from 1910 to 1943 angel island. And this story really imagines, you know, this group of people that came through and now we read about their, their ancestors who now are part of this story. And they, they imagine what they’re going through a ton and his father, how hard life seems to be, but they are relating to, and, um, connecting with what the grandparents had to do, what his parents had to do as they came across the ship into a whole new life to make a whole new life together.

Speaker 3: 06:40 So really it’s about resilience and what it takes to, uh, to make it.

Speaker 2: 06:44 And there’s, there’s also a lot of ritual. There’s Jewish tradition, there’s these hints, it ancestral magic like that clay throughout the story, as well as nature. And we follow a tan as he navigates not only hearing stories about these things, but understanding and even harnessing them. What does all of that mean to you?

Speaker 3: 07:06 I think that, you know, so much of the stories are generational. It brings kind of the idea of the old world and the new world clashing together. And what happens when, you know, older rituals are brought into kind of a newer life, um, because I think it’s so important. I dunno for me and…

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