Is Summer your real name, or a pen name?
I write under my real name. It keeps me honest. I was born in April, which is rather like summer in Texas. My mother just thought the name was pretty, so I lucked into it. She might have named me Clover Rose or Dominique, which have very different feels. The other names on the list were not bad, but on the whole, I'm glad my mom chose Summer.
Where are you from, and where do you call home?
I was born in Houston, TX, and I grew up mostly in the Houston area, with a couple of glorious years in Leon County, Texas. My husband and I moved to Durham, NC in 1999 for graduate school, and we fell in love with the area. There has never been a question of us staying here. The openness, vibrancy, and creativity here are amazing, and we have a great local food and drink scene, to boot.
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Fructus is made up of strong women friends. Do you have such a group? What makes a good group of friends?
The shrine becomes an important marker of Vanessa's hope and healing. Do you have a sacred space in your home?
Vanessa's abusive alcoholic mom gives her sound advice about God. Have you ever heard wisdom from an unexpected source?
What do you think Vanessa's mom would have been like had she made different life choices? How might Vanessa be different?
With which character do you identify most? Why?
The fastest growing religious affiliation in the US is "none." Many of the people who do not espouse formal religions call themselves "spiritual but not religious." Do you think Vanessa fit that category well? Why or why not? What about the other members of Fructus?
Javier tells Vanessa that a priest told him no one should be in ministry without first tending bar. Do you have a bar or coffee place or restaurant you frequent? How might bartending prepare one to be a priest?
Vanessa grieves the loss of her Granny. How did she lose God when Granny died? Did she get Granny back when she reconnected with her spirituality?
Perla says God goes home in the bodies of women, but women are often treated as less than sacred. Do Perla's words change how you see yourself? The Divine? The world?
What would be different if everyone felt the same way as Perla?
Vanessa assumes the role of Banjopera to win Javier back. What are other grand gestures in the book? How did the luchadora match bring together special themes in Javier and Vanessa's lives?
Vanessa survived some serious childhood abuse and neglect. She dealt with her trauma by disconnecting with her body and physical space. Do you identify with Vanessa in her struggle or her recovery of herself?
Objects in this novel are often more than they seem. From the photo that inspires the love story to glow in the dark Jesus, to the Raphael medal, tangible things act as portals into a better reality. What are some objects in your life that connect you with deeper meaning?
What did you think about Little Mani's two-father family?
Making a shrine helps Vanessa make peace with her past and with her new direction in life. What do you think about her inclusion of the horoscopes into her shrine? Would you have forgiven Vanessa's mother?
Bright colors and fabrics seem to go hand-in-hand with Vanessa's healing and new life. How does nurturing her home life in turn nurture her? Can you relate to her need for beauty?
Do you make things with your hands? Do your friends know about your hobby, or do you keep it to yourself? Why?
What does Vanessa's hope chest reveal about her? Do you think she was right to keep it secret from Bradley?
What would you put in a shrine in your home? For a shrine-making guide visit Summer's website at writinglikeamother.com.