San Diego author writes a fantastic story about a Filipino family in his first book

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Tracy Badua’s journey as a writer began with lots of printer paper, staples, and stories of her stuffed animals getting a haircut or trying their best in a dance contest. Today she has “Freddie Against the Family Curse”, her debut novel released May 3, the story of an unlucky boy from an unlucky family who finds a way to break this generational curse with the help of the spirit of an ancestor and a bit of Filipino WWII history added.

“The idea of ​​a World War II object to be returned to its owner had been on my mind since 2017. That year, Filipino World War II veterans were finally awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service, and that was huge, good news for a lot of people I know. My father’s father was a survivor of the Bataan death march, which we get a glimpse of in the book,” she says. “The bones of ‘Freddie’ really came together once I thought about combining the supernatural with the historical.”

A lawyer by day, working in housing policy and active in the Filipino American legal community, Badua, 36, lives in Linda Vista with her husband, their young daughter and their Maltese (with her own Instagram account, @sandydogmillionaire). They are expecting their second child later this summer, and her second young adult novel, “It’s Not a Personal Statement,” will follow in January 2023. She will also be at the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore at 6 p.m. on May 3 for a in-person and virtual chat and book signing. Badua took the time to talk about “Freddie”, the kind of stories she loved as a child, and her struggles in the kitchen.

Q: Can you talk about writing a story centered around a particular Filipino character and culture? What difference do you think this type of representation makes in children’s books?

A: When I first sat down to write this book, I had what I thought was a simple goal to tell a fun story about a Filipino American child who must return a valuable heirloom to save his family. The more I wrote, the more I found ways to incorporate snippets of my own childhood into the story: everything from superstitions to growing up in a multi-generational household to using Danish butter cookie tins to hold the sewing supplies.

Freddie isn’t meant to be a character that represents the way all Filipino American kids grow up, but there’s definitely a lot of me in the world he inhabits. I hope readers from all walks of life will also see something of themselves in the story. Maybe they’ve had a lot of bad days like Freddie, or they’re star dancers like his cousin, or they too ran out of glue the day before a big project. Seeing and perhaps relating to the many dimensions of all kinds of people is so valuable in shaping how we approach our world.

Q: I read that you grew up in a superstitious household? What are some of the superstitions you remember from your childhood?

A: I was lucky to have my grandmothers living with us for a good part of my childhood, and they are the origin of some of these superstitions and these beautiful traditions. They warned against sweeping the night because we would “sweep the fortune”, a ritual applied in “Freddie’s” house, too. I had a few readers, both Filipino and non-Filipino, who pointed out that it was something their families practiced. I’d like to think that there are people who centuries ago all over the world got tired of being the ones cleaning up after a long day at work or school and preparing meals and concocted this element of “bad luck” as an excuse to show up early.

One of the traditions we carry on is to present an “atang”, or offering, at the beginning of our great family celebrations. We take a bit of each dish served and prepare it for any spirits that might join us. “Atang” is actually one of the first Ilocano (Filipino dialect) words my daughter learned because we put a strawberry in the garden “for the spirits”, and for a while she kept wanting to leave fruit outside. But it turns out that the local gopher people, not the spirits, seemed to benefit the most, so I quietly let this practice of these small offerings fade away.

Q: What do you think are the lessons of Freddie’s story? What do you hope young readers take away from the book?

A: At its heart, this is the story of a child who finds his own way of being brave, so I hope young readers who have had a hard time – but hopefully not a curse complete family – take some courage (or at least a couple laughs) from Freddie’s journey. Although the solutions to many of life’s problems aren’t as simple as a change in attitude, sometimes every little ray of sunshine can help when you’re trying to dispel the shadows.

What I like about Linda Vista…

I love being so close to the beach and other fun or beautiful outdoor spaces. When we started staying home during the pandemic, having these safe outings just a short drive away was so precious to the toddler and to me. I also love that we are close to so many amazing places where I can have delicious meals, which is a must for a busy mom who has realized that cooking isn’t her greatest strength. We also have a few local breweries that are both kid-friendly and dog-friendly, and they’re perfect default outings when my brain is fried from work and writing.

Q: How did you go about writing this book?

A: I’m that kind of person who needs some sort of roadmap before I sit down to work on something. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to proceed with the task without a plan, so I first sketched out the elements of this story on paper and then got to work writing it. Then this is where it gets messy: I was pregnant at the time, and I sort of got it into my head to have a draft done before I gave birth so I could revise while on maternity leave. I bet all the parents out there right now are laughing at my naivety. To achieve my goal, I wrote in the evenings, free time on weekends, and during long train journeys, and these rare periods of uninterrupted time are where I write most of my writing these days as well. .

I may have gotten a very rough draft before my baby’s due date, but it took several more months of polishing before it was ready to land in my agent’s inbox.

Q: Can we expect to see a sequel to this story? Whether it’s more Freddie or maybe a focus on Sharkey or another character?

A: “Freddie” is a standalone novel, but I have the very beginning of a possible Sharkey story in my brain! I have a few other projects to focus on for a while, but I wouldn’t say no to diving back into the world of Freddie and Sharkey.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: A lot of writing advice focuses on the importance of finding good review partners, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. I consider myself so lucky to have been in contact with amazing writers who take the time to provide thoughtful and respectful feedback, and also allow me to vent or ask questions about the publishing process. We may not all write in the same genre, or even for the same age groups, but the support and friendship has been invaluable.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: As far as I mention food in my works (especially in my upcoming novel about a Filipino-Indian fusion food truck), I’m not a big cook. I can follow a recipe here and there, but the Filipino dishes proved difficult for me! It especially made me homesick when I was living across the country in Washington, DC and trying to recreate even the simplest meals myself. I’m so lucky that my parents, brother, and mother-in-law sometimes bring me homemade treats (probably because they know those sad cooking skills).

Q: Please describe your ideal weekend in San Diego.

A: My ideal weekend in San Diego would probably involve a great morning coffee or treat, some time in the sun with my favorite people, and maybe a relaxed evening with a locally brewed craft beer, an on-demand movie, and my dog snoring next to me on the couch. Importantly, on that perfect weekend, I would also be magically on track for all my work and writing deadlines, and my toddler would cooperate during mealtimes and naps.

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