The Latina Book Club wishes Fathers everywhere a Happy Father’s Day.
We also welcome author Celeste Leon, who shares with us the story of her “lucky” father
and the reasons she just had to write a book about him.
And many Felicidades to Celeste on her book, LUCK IS ONLY THE BEGINNING, being named a Finalist in the 2016 International Book Awards, and a Finalist for the Mariposa Award for Best First Book in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards.
Author, father & daughter
FROM CELESTE LEÓN:
In 1944 my father, Ramón León, won the lottery. $18,000, a fortune! ($500,000 in today's money.) To say that it changed his life and the lives of others is a gross understatement.
His story has become such family lore that ten years ago, I decided I must tell it. “Why do you want to write about me?” my father asked when I said I was writing a book about him. His response shows his humility. What he accomplished is extraordinary, though he’d never admit it.
Ramón León grew up in the remote seaside town of Maunabo, Puerto Rico. From the age of seven, he carried trays of pastries on his head into the nearby sugar plantation to sell to field hands. He saved every penny he earned. At 19, he had a premonition – a vision. A number flashed across the sky: 14007. “Guillermo,” he said to his friend, “I need to play that number in the lottery!” He felt it so strongly that for the first time, he bought a full sheet of tickets, something only the very wealthy did. And he won. Going from poor to rich in a heartbeat caused as many problems as it solved. He struggled to use his winnings to stay true to himself, ensure family and community harmony, and fulfill his dream of being a healer.
|a young Ramon Leon
Years before, a dentist known in his village as “El Humanitario” had cured Ramón's abscessed tooth. Since that day, Ramón dreamed of helping others as he'd been helped. Puerto Rico had few dentists and no dental school in 1944, so, though he knew no English, he attended Michigan State University. Although it was far from easy, his winnings allowed him to live his dream and ultimately return to Puerto Rico to carry on the work of his beloved mentor, “El Humanitario”.
Weeks before my novel inspired by his story was released, one of my dad’s old patients read my story, A LUCKY MAN (2006). She posted it on our town’s Facebook page.
Testimonials from Dad’s former patients poured in, 25 years after he'd retired. “Best dentist I ever had.” “One of a kind!” One patient told how Dad saw him on a Sunday after a terrible car accident. Recognizing the serious nature of the young man's injuries, Dad referred him to the nearest hospital. Dad made house calls, and if someone couldn’t pay, he bartered for services.
My father showed respect to everyone without question, and in turn, earned it. These lessons and values shaped the person I am today in my work as a physical therapist and author. In sharing intimate details of his life as I wrote Luck is Just the Beginning, he revealed a humble heroism.
Life has come full circle. His dream came true and, with the publication of my novel, LUCK IS JUST THE BEGINNING, so has mine. Readers have told me how the book inspired them, how they rejoiced during the good parts and cried during the bad.
I share this story in honor of Father’s Day. From selling pastries on sugar plantations to a career as an acclaimed dentist and healer, with a big boost from the Puerto Rican lottery, my father's story is truly amazing.###
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Celeste León is an award winning author. Her debut novel, Luck is Just the Beginning, was awarded Finalist in the Multicultural Fiction Category in the 2016 International Book Awards and the Mariposa Award for Best First Book in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards.
Celeste was named “One of Ten Latina Writers to Watch and Read” by The Latina Book Club, and shortly thereafter they published this interview in honor of Women’s History Month (March): Beyond a Stroke of Luck: An Interview with Celeste León by Teresa Dovalpage.
Celeste is a 2013 alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She is the recipient of First Prize in the annual contest for the High Sierra Writers group in Reno, Nevada for her essay, Finding Home, about her travels to Puerto Rico in search of her family roots. When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor read the piece, she said, “If your work on your short story reflects your work on your book, it will be successful.” The piece was also a finalist in the 2014 annual contest for The Preservation Foundation. Celeste is a physical therapist and lives in Truckee, CA with her family. Visit her social media sites:
For 2016 International Book Awards announcement, click here.
To watch her NPR interview, click here.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!