Authors Isabel Allende and Sandra Curtis provided insight into the masked swordsman Zorro at Pomona’s Together We Read event held at Western University of Health Sciences Nov. 1, 2012.
The Together We Read event, sponsored by the Pomona Public Library, the city of Pomona and Western University of Health Sciences, is designed to foster an appreciation and love for reading. Click here for more information and a list of Together We Read activities.
Chilean-American author Isabel Allende wrote the 2005 novel “Zorro,” revealing the history behind the legendary masked man. Her books have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 57 million copies.
Sandra Curtis, author of “Zorro Unmasked: The Official History,” traces the history of Zorro from the first story by Johnston McCulley in 1919 to more recent portrayals in film and print.
The two authors talked about Zorro via teleconference from Northern California. David Kipen, book critic and founder of Libros-Schmibros, a bookstore and lending library, provided the welcome and author introductions.
In Allende’s book, Diego de la Vega is born the son of a Spanish soldier and an American Indian warrior. In his youth he undergoes a test to prove his maturity and finds his spirit guide — a fox, or zorro in Spanish. Allende’s novel traces his life as he travels to Barcelona, battles pirates, and evolves into Zorro.
Allende does a beautiful job of integrating humor into the book, Curtis said.
“There is a point when you’re writing the book, you may have a script in your head, you may have ideas in your head, but then there is a point when the characters start doing things by themselves,” Allende said. “And when that happens, ah, you’re channeling the book. That’s a wonderful, wonderful moment. There was a point when I started writing about Zorro that I realized that Zorro wears a mask not to cover his face but to flatten his ears. From that point on, I could connect with him in an easy, lighthearted way.”
Curtis asked Allende why the recurring themes of justice, freedom and choice appear in her books. Allende said every writer draws from their own life experiences.
“Most of my characters live in the margins of the society. They never belong anywhere. They don’t belong even because they are foreigners, because of gender issues or because they are outsiders or outcasts,” Allende said. “In my life I have always been a foreigner. I was the daughter of diplomats, and I was a political refugee. Now I am an immigrant. I will always have an accent. I will always be a foreigner, even if I am an American citizen. So that issue is so relevant in my life.”
Growing up in her grandfather’s house, she realized at a young age there was a huge difference between the wealthy and those who have nothing, Allende said.
“In my own house, there was a physical boundary that separated the part where the adults lived and the part where the domestic servants and the children lived,” she said. “I saw how unjust the system was, and it just made me so angry. To this day it makes me angry. So I think that’s why it was easy for me to reflect that in Zorro.”