Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Q&A with Mona Alvarado Frazier




Mona Alvarado Frazier is the author of the new young adult novel The Garden of Second Chances.


Q: What inspired you to write The Garden of Second Chances, and how did you create your character Juana?


A: More than half of women in prison are mothers, and most are not incarcerated in a facility that makes it viable for caretakers to take children to visit. The separation of mothers and their children is a significant issue and impacts their mental health.


Most girls experienced trauma, addictions, neglect, and abandonment. A significant trauma results from Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or Domestic Violence. The issues of IPV are not reflected in many YA books, although 12 percent of American high schoolers experience emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from their dating partners. And transgender teens and gender-nonconforming youth are disproportionately affected, so that percentage is probably higher.


Amid these difficulties, many of the girls tried to deal with these issues the best way they could. I wanted to tell their stories.


The character of Juana is a composite of those girls who experienced domestic violence, were mothers, and proved resilient during the hardships of their incarceration.


Q: You’ve worked for many years with incarcerated youth. Did you need to do additional research to write the novel, and if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?

A: Since this novel was set in 2003, I had to do additional research on immigration laws, the regulations of California’s Department of Juvenile Justice, and the statistics on intimate partner violence. The area that alarmed me was how high the incidence of IPV is among teenage girls.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I only knew that Juana would survive her experience, but I didn’t know exactly how that would happen. The beginning changed a few times, the middle numerous times, and the ending a couple of times.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The three working titles I originally had didn’t quite fit Juana’s journey. As a child, Juana’s happiest memories are when she spent time with her mother in their garden. After losing contact with her sister and her baby, along with her depression after being incarcerated, she loses hope.


But when the warden grants Juana’s proposal to make a garden in the backyard, she recalls the wisdom her mother imparted during their time together. This motivates her to try again against all odds.


I sought to find a title that inferred progress toward the hope that grew within her and a place that held special memories. The process of cultivating rocky soil, sowing seeds, growth, and harvesting symbolizes what Juana goes through.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My second YA novel is scheduled for the winter of 2024. It is set in 1972 against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the rise in feminism, and the Chicano Movement. A 17-year-old girl deals with the aftermath of her father's death in Vietnam, her family's expectations, and the social justice issues in her community.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, I have a couple of things. If you have a story to tell and it won’t let go, keep writing. A writer is in it for the long haul.


If you’re a reader and chose to read this novel, please support the author by leaving a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever you bought the book.


Please keep in touch via my website,, where you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter and find updates on the novels. My links to Twitter and Instagram are also listed there.


Thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk about The Garden of Second Chances.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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