The Latina Book Club is proud to introduce Jaime Alvarez, author of DICHOS DE MI MADRE. It’s a very emotional book and gives us a clear portrait of its author -- a loving, passionate, spiritual family man. Jaime’s poetry and life lessons are heartfelt and very positive. Hopefully, people will learn from his life experiences, and realize that the choices we make and how we live with them are what make us who we are. Jaime is now collaborating with his daughter Elena Labastida on a new book. Here is an interview with both of them. Enjoy.
Everybody has something interesting to say and at least one book to write. ---Jaime Alvarez
LBC: Tell us about your books. Who did you write them for?
JAIME: SKIN TO SKIN was my first book. It actually took 10 years to write. At the beginning my intention was to keep an accurate chronology of events that were developing very rapidly in our court case. Later on, the book took on a life of its own and became a refuge for me to keep my sanity and maintain my courage. Your life will never be the same after you have been criminally investigated and then charged. Not one of our family members turned on each other in order to save their own skin. Our love for one another and with the help of Almighty God’s Holy Spirit made us invincible. SKIN TO SKIN could not be finished until we were fully exonerated not as individuals, but as a familia.
DICHOS DE MI MADRE is so very different than SKIN TO SKIN, because I was in a much different place in my life. Many times I have compared my familias struggle to a war. The war had passed and it was a time for peace.
My mother has always been my hero. I wanted to honor her legacy by writing a book about her wise sayings. DICHOS DE MI MADRE was definitely written for her. When I presented the book to her, in spite of her debilitating Alzheimer’s disease, her little gray eyes filled with tears of joy. I wanted to recognize her greatness while she was still alive. The book is also for my familia. My daughters, son-in-law’s, grandchildren and of course mi esposa are all part of the book. I love it when at times they quote dichos or stories from it. My grandchildren love for me to read to them from the book. The story of the giant beautiful dahlia is their favorite. Many of the people that have read it tell me that it has lifted their spirits and made them think about life and their families dichos.
LBC: In DICHOS, you mention that your mother is your hero. She had a tough life with your father, but she endured and survived. Do you see her strength, her courage in your daughters? Granddaughters? What do you want your children to remember most about your mother? About you? ELENA—how do you remember your grandmother?
JAIME: My wife and I marveled at our four daughters – Leticia (nurse), Marisela (real estate developer), Elena (marriage counselor) and our baby Gina (studying to be teacher). All our daughters are very strong but warm and loving women. I want my children to remember what a loving and responsible mother I had. She inculcated loyalty and decency into my soul by example. She was a very beautiful woman and could have pursued other relationships with men but her children came first. I want my mama to be remembered as a unselfish, loving and giving mother. As for myself, I would like my wife, daughters and grandchildren to remember me as a decent man that always tried to do the right thing. A man that was not afraid of standing up and protect his loved ones.
ELENA: My Grandmother is a beautiful lady that sacrificed her life and happiness for her family. She has many self imposed limitations due to following traditional cultural norms and not having a formal education. A classic example of marianismo (self-sacrificing woman), bordering on martyrdom. My Grandmother was very influential in our lives, especially because she lived with us during our formative years after my Grandfather passed away. What I love most about my Grandmother was her sense of loyalty, resilience and her cooking of course.
LBC: You are working on a third book -- THE SAMSON SYNDROME, THE BOOK THAT EVERY REAL MAN SHOULD READ – with your daughter Elena. Will this be a how-to-be-a-real-man book? What do you want men to realize with this book?
JAIME: THE SAMSON SYNDROME is about choices and consequences. It is not intended to be religious nor condescending. It has to do with thinking ability and understanding, cause and effect of choices a man can make in his lifetime. We men need to develop character and that is internal not external. Wisdom can help us learn from the lives and choices of other men that can be much less painful than having to live it ourselves. I want men, especially young ones, to know that we all have a right to choose the way we want to live our lives. What we can’t control are the consequences of foolish and reckless choices. We have to always keep in our mind and hearts the effect our choices will have on our loved ones. THE SAMSON SYNDROME is not about being judgmental but it certainly is about the mental judgment of men. I invited Elena to collaborate with me.
ELENA: My Father and I are blessed to have coffee together every morning. We have passionate discussions and debates over many different topics. Sometimes our discussions revolve around someone we personally know or a celebrity/public figure that has engaged in an indiscretion. During our discussions my Father will say, "You are coming from the clinical perspective." I laugh and say, "Remember, equifinality!" That is our cue to remember that we must keep an open mind because there is more than one way to accomplish something...I have great respect for my Father, his wisdom and the great example of fidelity he has demonstrated toward my wonderful Mother and our family. His example has taught me to know my worth and not to settle for anything less. As you are aware, he has a great passion for writing and has encouraged me do the same. I feel the timing is right for me to begin writing, since I have much to say and share. The Samson Syndrome will be my first book writing experience and I will be coming from a clinical/female perspective. My credentials are a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Loma Linda University. I am currently working on obtaining my licensure and will be returning to school for my Ph.D.
Daughters, Elena is the first one to the left in the red dress with Gina, Marisela and Leticia.
LBC: Jaime, congratulations on your 45 wedding anniversary. Do you have a favorite love song? Can you share with us the secret to a long and happy marriage?
JAIME: My favorite love song is probably a little unconventional but it is very meaningful to me. The title of the song is “Still The One,” made popular in the 1970s by Orleans and written by John Hall. One of the secrets to a long and happy marriage is to think and act married. The neat thing about it is that being married can be a lot of fun. It is really important to want to get old together and know that you will always be there for each other. Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition; it is 100-100 proposition. Spouses should support one another in their endeavors and work on making their mate happy. Even after almost 46 years of marriage, we still go out on a weekly date.
LBC: What is next for you?
JAIME: After book number three my brain has been toying with the idea of writing a fourth book entitled, How I Defeated Public Enemy Number One, Heart Disease. After what I call our families war, I was left with congestive heart failure as a result of the great stress I was subjected to. I have had severe atrial fibrillation episodes and I underwent heart surgery December 2012. Throughout it all I have remained very positive and have refused to consider myself a victim. With God’s help, I intend to be completely free of medication, and through healthy dieting and exercise, I want to defeat my heart disease. We all have ailments but we do not have to become our illness. This would be a very uplifting book that anyone with some kind medical condition would benefit from reading.
LBC: Who are your favorite authors? Favorite Latino authors? Do you have a favorite book?
JAIME: My favorite author is Dr. Victor Frankel. His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, helped me during my family’s tumultuous times. Dr. Frankel suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s during World War II. His entire family was murdered in the concentration camps. He himself suffered four years in one of the worst camps known as Auschwitz. Even in that living hell where mankind descended into animalistic depravity, Dr. Frankel still maintained his integrity and did not capitulate. He taught me that no matter what the circumstance we still have choice and can do the right thing.
ELENA: My favorite books are The Bible, for its wisdom and loving guidance. Additionally, I Never Knew I Had a Choice by Dr Gerald Corey.###
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