Join us in celebrating Ander & Santi Were Here's book birthday! We sat down with Musa Jonny Garza Villa to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about this much buzzed about novel.
Ander & Santi Were Here is a story of love—communal, familial, platonic, and romantic—of art and culture and food, and of home as not only place but of people. It follows Ander, a non-binary muralist taking a gap year before moving to Chicago to attend art school, who falls for Santi, the newest waiter at their family’s taquería, and a romance made complicated when ICE visits the restaurant and Santi is a potential target.
What 3 words would you use to describe your book? Love. Community. Culture.
How would you describe your main character? Why did you create your character that way? Feral, Aries enby. But, really, I would describe Ander as loud, brash, artistic, emotional; they feel and love deeply. I wanted them to be a product of a life where they’ve been allowed to be who they are without shame and see what that looks like.
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story? This story came about and was inspired by a lot of things. I love tacos. I’ve always been interested in—and, for a time, studied—immigration politics, Latinx politics, border politics, Mexican American studies, and things like that. I started writing this story at the beginning of 2020, following the release of American Dirt and really wanting something better for my community, in an election year when so much was (and still is) on the line, in a pandemic, missing friends and family and my favorite taquería, and going to Black Lives Matter marches and being surrounded by the revolutionary spirit.
What was your favorite part of the publication process with this story? Seeing the final cover. PERFECTION.
What comes next for you as an author? My third YA, Canto Contigo, is my grief book dedicated to my grandfather who lived many years with Parkinson’s. It’s an enemies-to-lovers story that I describe as all about the epic highs and lows of high school mariachi.
Jonny Garza Villa is a product of the Great State of Texas, a Sagittarius sun, Capricorn everything else, and an author of contemporary young adult novels inspired by their own Tejane & Chicane and queer identities. Their debut novel, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, was named a Pura Belpré Honor Title and listed in Kirkus’ Best YA Fiction of 2021. When not writing, Jonny enjoys reading, playing Dungeons & Dragons, cooking, listening to Selena, and dreaming of travel.
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