Too late the Mandolin Q&A

January 13, 2011 1 Comment

I interviewed Windton Adiago, author of Too Late the Mandolin, by phone the other day as he was stuck in a San Antonio airport. I had time only for a few questions, but we both promised to continue the dialogue at some point down the road nearer to publication.
Dan Fleuris

Q: Winston, a lot has been made of your dual heritage – Hispanic and Caucasian – and the relation between that duality and the tension you experienced in Iraq. Can you elaborate on this?

A: There’s not an easy answer. That’s why I spent 350 pages on Mandolin. The ethnic tensions you feel stateside are the same whether you belong to two sides or one – or none. And the same is true of Iraq. Walk in there as a soldier and take just one step off base and you feel the hatred. You don’t even need to speak the language. You can see it in their eyes. And if they don’t hate the Americans, they hate the Sunis or the Shiites. Those kids in the insurgency – eighteen year-olds – they’ve spent half their lives at war. And it isn’t a clean war, like trenches out in the desert. It’s dirty house-to-house war with kids lives at stake and American patrols bursting in your door with search dogs and snipers drawing a bead just below your helmet. Before that, there was Saddam Hussein. They don’t have much left to lose. Why not blow everything up with an IED? I don’t know how they’re ever going to get over that. And it’s not as if America is heaven. Get a job picking fruit down and Texas and tell me how wonderful America is. We don’t mind sending Hispanics to fight for peace, justice and the American way, but just let them try to get a piece of that when they get home. It’s almost as if we’re just in Iraq amplifying – or cloning – the issues we have at home.

Q: You sound very bitter.

A: Yes – and no. I’m one of the lucky ones. Some would say it’s because my mother was white. But that’s not it. I’m lucky because I was able to work hard and get an education even though my white mother took in laundry for a living. I will grant America that, you can’t do that in any other country in the world. And you can find redemption in America. But it’s darn hard to gain respect in America.

Q: Did the writing ease your inner tensions over ethnic strife?

A: Definitely yes. But there’s a long way to go. I thank God for a strong community.

Q: I know you have to catch your flight. I just want to say thank you for letting Octavio Books publish your debut novel and let’s and let’s return to our dialogue down the road a bit.

A: The pleasure will be mine.

Dan Fleuris

Octavio Books

Octavio, LLC

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