Wonder: the novel written by a Latino author that causes sensation in Spain
Written by Raquel Jaramillo, daughter of Colombian inmigrants, Wonder returns to be topical thanks to the premiere of the film with the same name. The novel serves as an inspiration for young people affected by facial alterations who suffer bullying at school.
In the US, it has been a long time since "Wonder", a juvenile novel written by the author of Colombian origin R.J. Palacio, causes sensation in schools. The funny thing is that since its publication, in 2012, the story of Auggie, a 10-year-old boy with a malformation on his face who suffers bullying at school, has also become a bestseller in Spain.
"The novel helps to make visible in the classroom issues such as bullying and empathy. Or the importance of cordiality ", highlighted Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia on Monday, ten days after the movie inspired in the novel was released in Spain.
The movie "Wonder", starring Julia Roberts, has put R.J. Palacio's juvenile novel again on the spot.
Mimicking what happened in the US, in recent years "Wonder" has become compulsory reading in many schools, at least in Catalonia, in the northeast of Spain, where it has also been published in Catalan.
The success of "Wonder" in Spain is due to several factors. In the first place, the capacity of J.R. Palacio (pseudonym of Raquel Jaramillo, a first generation American, born to Colombian inmigrants) to present a subject as serious as school bullying in a comedy and cheerful tone. And second, notes the newspaper El Periódico , the fact that the daughter of a famous character like Pep Guardiola, the former coach of Futbol Club Barcelona, appeared reading the book in 2013, when the family lived in NY.
"Wonder" explains August's story from the point of view of different characters, like his sister and his friends. The author then wrote two more books to continue her story: "Julian's Story", where she focuses on the boy who bullies August; therefore, it forces the reader to put himself in the shoes of the bad guy. The third book, "The Game of Christopher," features August's best friend, in an attempt to highlight the importance of friendship.
August Garcia, a primary teacher at a school outside of Barcelona, explained to El Periódico that the first reaction of his students to read the book is "of curiosity about the malformation suffered by the protagonist, but they quickly immerse themselves in the story, obviating this feature. "One thing that surprises children is that the same story can be lived in different ways," Garcia explains. "After all, they learn what life is like; We live the same things and we see them in different ways ".
Wonder, now released as a movie in cinemas around the world, was the first novel by Raquel Jaramillo, graphic designer, daughter of Colombian immigrants residing in New York. The author has told in several interviews that the novel was born by chance, after a "quite embarrassing" incident. The author was on the street with her two children, sitting in front of an ice cream parlor. His eldest son had just finished fifth grade, and the youngest was still in a stroller. They saw a girl with her face deformed by a medical condition.
"It was just one of those terrible moments when my children did not react the way I wanted them to react," Jaramillo said in an interview with NPR in 2012. "In order not to hurt this girl's feelings, I ended up running away from the scene. "
That night, embarrassed of what happened, she began to write a story about a fifth-grader named Auggie who struggles to feel normal despite the fact that everyone looks at him.
A first generation American, R.J Palacio was born and raised in a working class neighborhood of Queens. Her father, originally from Antioquia, worked in the publishing industry, and her mother, Barranquilla, was the secretary of an American company, until in the early sixties they decided to emigrate together to the United States, Colombian magazine Diners reported.
"My mother always told me: do not forget that you are a writer (...) I think I am the classic example of first generation kid: my mission in life became to validate my parents' decision to emigrate to New York", detailed Jaramillo in another interview with The Telegraph. Palacio took his pseudonym from her mother's last name.
After finishing elementary school, Jaramillo entered the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, and then specialized in illustration at the Parsons School of Design. She spent her third year at the American University of Paris, where she traveled long before returning to New York City with the aim of making a career as an illustrator.
His first works appeared in The Village Voice and The New York Times Book Review, and he has designed book covers for countless writers in all genres of fiction and non-fiction, including Paul Auster, Thomas Pynchon, Salman Rushdie, Louise Ehrdrich, Sue Grafton and John Fowles.