New Novel

Tierra

El Diario de Max Edwards

Spanish teachers: If you buy only one novel written by me, buy Tierra. (It’s the only novel I’ve written, and if I ever write another one, it might not be any good.)

But seriously, I have been amazed and gratified at how focused my students are as they work their way through the story. In my most optimistic moments during the writing process, I could not have anticipated how many of my students would show telltale body language of pleasure reading. I’ve taught the book six times now, and I am constantly on the lookout for a sigh, groan, whine, complaint, a roll of the eyes—some sign that we are about to begin a learning activity as they pull out their copies of the book. But if it has happened, I haven’t heard it. (It happened a few times the first year I used it, but I simplified the reading a bit over the summer, and that made a big difference.)

I certainly did not anticipate that (otherwise normal) high school boys year-after-year would tell me that I should make the book into a movie, or that the third least-motivated student I had one year would have taken such pride and pleasure in rising to the challenge of guessing words from context. Or that last year a student in my study hall asked me to translate it into English so he could read it because his friend who had my class loved it and told him about it. And I love it that some students care enough to be angry that it doesn’t have a happy ending! (Is there something wrong with me that I like their negative reaction to a sad ending?)

I hoped to accomplish three things for my students in writing Tierra:

  1. I wanted the book to serve as comprehensible input. I wanted students to understand at least 90% of the vocabulary to build their ability to read fluently in Spanish by cementing the meanings of the highest-frequency words and structures in the part of the brain whose job it is to process language on the subconscious level.
  2. I wanted to present a scenario that would take students deeper into the lives of Latino workers they see in their community—to take them beyond the one-dimensional image that many of them have.
  3. I wanted to use the book as a platform to improve their reading skills in English and Spanish.

I am satisfied with the degree to which all three of these objectives were accomplished.

I use Tierra in the third quarter of my Spanish II class. The school I teach in and our language program are both pretty rigorous, so it could be more of a third-year novel in some programs. In a higher-level class, it would be a pretty quick read, and may serve as a good springboard for discussions in Spanish about the plot, characters, current events, ethics, and connections with daily life and community.

I’ve been threatening to release this book since 2012. Since then, I’ve improved it year-after-year based on my observations about how things went in class. I’ve mulled over the variety of ways I could make this available to teachers that would be very affordable, but would still help me put my kids through college. I’ve had parents complain about it, and administrators support it. I’ve had it proof-read by native speakers, and read by some respected teachers.

I’ve finally decided to (and figured out more-or-less how to) publish a pdf for purchase here on my site.

You don’t have to wonder if it’s right for your students—you can go ahead and read it (all except the ending, of course) by clicking here.

I’ve got to eat dinner now, and then probably do some school work, but very soon I’m going to decide on a price and watch some Youtube videos to figure out exactly how to put the file up for sale. Very soon. Hopefully.