Disappeared

by Francisco Stork on July 3, 2017

Figuring out the inspirational origins of a novel is usually a difficult process for me. Multiple images, memories, ideas and emotions come together at different times to form the work’s initial vision. This was not the case with Disappeared (published September, 2017) where two seemingly disparate events coalesced in my heart and imagination with unusual clarity. The first consisted of the disappearance of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Young women, typically between the ages of fourteen to twenty-two, are kidnapped from downtown streets and are either never seen again or their mutilated and sexually abused bodies are found some time later.  Mexico’s own National Human Rights Commission estimates that 4,500 young women disappeared from 1993 to 2004.

Who knows why of all the suffering in the world some of it touches us more deeply, more personally? Maybe the crisis of the Desaparecidas affected me because my memories of Juárez.  When I was nine-years-old and my adoptive father sought to bring our family to the United States, we lived in Juárez for a year while my mother waited for her visa to be approved. And even after moving to El Paso, we never really left Juárez. We moved back forth naturally and freely between the two cities, the two countries, hardly noticing the legal border that separated them. We bought our groceries, went out for lunch and dinner, got haircuts, visited doctors and dentists, repaired our cars, in Mexico. When I got to high school, I learned to appreciate my Mexican heritage even more in the festive and welcoming Juárez bars only two miles from my house in El Paso.

The other event that inspired Disappeared was the recent presidential campaign. That’s when I saw the anger of many people in this nation against Latino immigrants. It was hard not to feel included in the spreading rage despite assurances that the anger was not ethnically-motivated, but simply the desire for tougher enforcement of our immigration laws. I didn’t know what to do with my own anger and sadness. That’s when the memory of the missing Juárez women came to me. I felt that the best thing I could do was to write a book about two young Mexicans, a brother and a sister, who are admirable in many ways, while continuing to be fully human. Sara is a budding journalist in Juárez investigating the disappearance of the young women. Emiliano is a soccer star, an enterprising high school student with his own arts and crafts business who is determined to make it big in Mexico. They each must confront dangerous situations at home which force them to make hard moral choices, including the decision to cross into Texas desert for the freedom and safety offered by the United States.

Disappeared helped me grow as a writer and as a person. Creating a suspenseful, fast-paced story from the perspective of two different characters challenged me as a writer in a fun and meaningful way. But I think that it was in trying to respond to hatred creatively, with all the love I could muster, where I grew the most. My hope is that Disappeared will do something similar for you, its reader.

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