Yamile Saied Méndez – Furia
Q&A with Yamile Saied Méndez author of Furia, a Reese Witherspoon YA Book Club selection
Will you please introduce yourself to the CBC community?
Hello, my name is Yamile (sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez and I’m an Argentine-American author. I’m a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Master in Writing for Children and Young Adults program, as well as VONA (Voices of our Nations). I’m also a founding member of Las Musas, the first marketing collective of women and nonbinary Latine authors. Furia is my first novel for young adults, but I have also authored the picture book Where Are You From? and several middle-grade novels. I live in Utah with my family, and I’m a soccer fanatic.
Your protagonist, Camila is a powerful young woman and rising soccer star, leading a complicated love life. Can you tell us about how she was created?
When I started writing the first draft of FURIA I hadn’t been home for many years and I was deeply homesick. Camila was the fruit of all my daydreaming, and came to me fully formed. Made up of memories of my young self and so many girls and women I’d met in my barrio, the bus stop, watching from the sidelines of a soccer pitch, and playing in the vacant lot behind my building.
Furia is filed with authentic details and the textures of daily life in Argentina. What do you miss about your country?
I miss everything from my country. I miss the sounds of the buses, the birds singing in the morning, the scent of roasted coffee from the spice factory in my school neighborhood, the chants from the stadium, the sun glinting in the river, visiting my friends and playing a pick-up game in the middle of the week, thunderstorms after an oppressively hot day, fresh bread, seasonal strawberries in October, the scent of jasmine flower in November, the scent of fireworks on Christmas Eve, Carnaval, seeing my nieces and nephews grow up and my siblings grow older, being spoiled by my god-parents and my aunts and uncles, laughing with my cousins, walking into the most enchanted used books stores and losing myself there for several hours. The list is endless.
Who did you write this book for?
I wrote it for all the young people who have great dreams and talents, but society keeps stopping them because of outdated ideas of what is attainable because of their gender, social status, or skin color. Although the main character is a multicultural girl from Argentina, I hope that readers from all backgrounds go into it hoping to get a glimpse into another’s world, and that they may be surprised to see a part of themselves in this novel.
You are a community member of Las Musas, can you tell us more about the collective?
Las Musas has been a wonderful initiative created by my friend and writing partner, Aída Salazar. We both had debuts in 2018, and for several reasons didn’t belong to an author debut group. We decided to gather the Latina authors debuting that year to support each other and break the stereotype that Latin America is a monolith and that our stories were competing against each other. Instead of allowing the industry to claim our books as the token Latina story in a particular season, we wanted to show that there is more than one voice coming out from our nations and that instead of competing, our stories complement each other like a symphony.