Author and Southern California high school teacher Shirley Scufka Hickman had a dream to write a popular classroom book that young Hispanic kids could truly identify with.
After Hickman graduated from Western State University in Gunnison, Colorado, she settled into teaching high school and college English in California. Hickman still resides in Porterville, California with her husband, Joe. Her grandparents emigrated from Croatia, so she grew up influenced by both cultures. This unique perspective helped her empathize with her many Latino students during her Southern California teaching career.
Her book “Fall in Love with an Orange Tree or a Book,” is about the young people she has had the privilege of knowing as students. Though the book is fiction, everything in it has happened to somebody she knows.
The title comes from an actual student of Hickman, who’s parents brought from Mexico to the United States. The girl’s mother told her,
“You have a choice. Fall in love with an orange tree, or a book.”
What it meant was, work in the orange fields your whole life, or go to college. The main character Elana Hernandez wants desperately to go to college. Her parents are taken by uniformed men, and she is left to care for her younger brother while trying to still attend school. It’s a difficult situation because she is also illegal to the country, and like many other children in this situation, she is forced to live in the shadows.
The idea of the Dream Act, which plays an important part in the book, means she will not be deported and can remain in school and can receive scholarships. This gives high hopes for Elana and her brother.
Listen to the author talk about her novel in person in our profile segment below airing this week on California Life Hd across the globe and online at CaliforniaLifeHd.com.