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Arte Publico

Arte Publico Press Author Of The Month: Estela Bernal

Texas native author discusses her novel for young adults


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Can You See Me Now? by Estela Bernal is a fast-paced and entertaining read for middle school teens that explores tough issues—including death and bullying—with sensitivity and humor.

On Amanda’s thirteenth birthday, her father is killed by a drunk driver while on the way to pick up her birthday present. She’s stunned when she overhears her mother blaming her: “If she hadn’t insisted on that stupid watch for her birthday, he would still be alive.” Her mom retreats into extra shifts at work, leaving Mandy with her grandmother and making her feel as if she has lost both parents.

Book cover: Can You See Me Now?
Book cover: Can You See Me Now?

To make matters worse, she’s the butt of cruel pranks at school. One day, some girls even glue her skirt to the chair! But things take a turn for the better when she befriends Paloma, an unusual new student  at Central Middle School, who introduces her to yoga and meditation. And she reluctantly becomes friends with Rogelio, a fat boy who is also bullied by their classmates.

Mandy’s new friends, a dog named Lobo and an interesting school project help to ease the pain of her father’s death and her mother’s absence. She maintains a connection to her father by writing letters to him each night. But will she always be invisible to her mother?

Estela Bernal’s debut novel shows teens how to cope with difficult situations and find self-confidence through making friends and trying something new.

Estela Bernal was born and raised in Texas, and lived in California for several years before moving to Portland, Oregon. This is her first published novel.

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Houston Public Media’s Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Bernal.