Questions for Ben
What made you decide to write a book about a girl in Guatemala?
For years I traveled to Guatemala with a medical/surgical team. During this time I realized the tragic history of the indigenous people and the genocide that took place in the early 1980s. I also started a small school which I ran for three years. Sometimes an author chooses to write a book. But sometimes a book chooses an author. I knew I had to write Tree Girl when one of the witnesses of the genocide told me her story during the middle of the night in a safe house in Guatemala.
Was it a challenge for you to understand Guatemalan culture?
No, because I was born and raised in Bolivia, South America. I knew the Hispanic culture well. I had also traveled extensively throughout Guatemala over the years. But I did have to do some historical research to learn all about the genocide that took place.
Why did you write this for young people instead of adults?
I think it is easier to change the attitude of a adolescent than that of an adult.
What do you think the biggest difference between Guatemalan and American kids is?
Many American kids take their freedom and opportunity for granted. We believe anybody can become a millionaire if they put their heart to it. In Guatemala, there is not the opportunity for someone who is both poor and indigenous Guatemalan. The rich rule their country in a way that eliminates any chance of poor people getting ahead.
Do You think things will continue to get better in Guatemala?
Slowly things are improving. But still the indigenous people live in fear. It will take the changing of people’s hearts to complete real change.
TREE GIRL F.A.Q.