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Deficient, OYE, and Washington, DC… oh my!

I’m happy to share that the next big event for Deficient is just around the corner… in Washington, DC!

On Thursday October 5th, from 7 to 8:30pm, I’ll be in conversation with the Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) at the Potter’s House Café & Bookstore. If you’re in the DMV area, please swing by!

I’ll be signing copies of Deficient and will be donating a percentage of the proceeds to OYE, an organization that “creates opportunities for young people to empower themselves and transform their lives, families and communities. [OYE] envisions a society where young people enjoy their rights and contribute to equitable and sustainable development in Honduras.”

OYE holds a special place in my heart, since I worked with them in Honduras from 2010 to 2012. During that time, I also wrote the first draft of Deficient.

My time with OYE was life-changing professionally and personally, and working with youth on a variety of issues, including creative writing, gave me the inspiration – and audacity – I needed to write a young adult, sci-bi book like Deficient.

I loved El Progreso, but it presented challenges to the young people who called it home. It sat in the shadow of a city that was then called the murder capital of the world. During the day, the markets were bustling, colorful places with baleada stands on most corners and where fruit sellers would greet me on a first name basis. I was known around town as the chelito (light-skinned guy) with colochos (curly hair) who taught yoga, a practice that raised eyebrows since so many had been told through their churches that it was a form of witchcraft. I was also known for running very long distances up and down the highway along the banana plantations, sacrificing all moisture to the blistering heat and humidity.

As soon as the sun set, El Progreso would take a haunting turn. The market streets went cryptically dark, without a person to be seen or a whisper to be heard. Gang violence was common, poverty levels were high, and a shocking number of youth were classified as ni-ni – neither studying nor working. The solution for many was to take the perilous journey north to the United States in search of an often-elusive American dream. An unknown number would never make it there, with several returning with lost limbs from their train journeys or, in the worst cases, losing their lives along the way.

The sensation of powerlessness in the face of such extraordinarily difficult circumstances was very real, but so was the determination to persevere and overcome. Many of the youth I met while working with OYE possessed a sense of resilience that seemed supernatural. That resilience is what I believe we must all tap into if we’re to survive the tumultuous years of adolescence, though we require it in different measures given the size and scope of the challenges we face.

My desire to capture this quality in a futuristic setting was one of the sparks of Deficient. I wanted Alejandro Aragon to channel exactly what the young people of El Progreso embodied. I also wanted him to represent anyone struggling to make sense of growing up in a world that can be cruel and unfair – someone who looks everywhere but inside for the answers until inside becomes the only place left for discovery.

I’d type away at the manuscript in a building called La Mansión, which was in walking distance from where I worked. (Everything was in walking distance from everything in El Progreso). I taught yoga in its plaza, and I was inspired Guillermo Mahchi’s Mayan/Buddhist paintings, an apothecary with meticulously arranged potions, and an open-air space that welcomed the moon and stars. I recall my eyes crossing at various points and sweat dripping down my temples as I nodded off in the oppressive heat. Writing is never easy, let alone in a torpid state. Yet it was one of the best writing spaces I’ve ever had, and I’m so grateful to El Progreso for providing me the opportunity to bring Deficient to life in its earliest form.

So October 5th is not only a sharing of Deficient but a time to celebrate its origins through OYE and El Progreso. If you’d like to learn more about OYE, please visit their webpage, and if you are looking for a great organization to give to before 2023 wraps up, I highly recommend it.

If you have any questions relating to the event, please reach out. I’d love to see you there!

On Teleprogreso, the local TV station, with OYE in February 2011
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