by CELINE PHU
Turning his passion into reality, Schurr High School alumnus Marco Vasquez (1991) shares his views and perspectives on society through his first novel, Steven Isn’t Normal.
Written from the point of view of a person with special needs, the protagonist Steven, the novel presents to a broad spectrum of readers a character to whom anyone can relate.
“Steven is everybody,” said Vasquez. “He’s imperfect—physically, emotionally, psychologically. His faults and idiosyncrasies may be more apparent than most others, but there is no denying that everybody has some. People tend to pounce on the person whose peculiarities are most present, if anything to take the attention away from their own peculiarities.”
Supporting characters associated with Steven were developed from a melting pot of Vasquez’s observations of those around him.
“The qualities of every character are based on qualities that I have found in people that I have encountered in my life. While some of the characters may seem bizarre, I think most people that read my novel will say, ‘I know somebody just like that.’”
In addition to his diverse community, Vasquez’s hometown also contributed to the making of Steven Isn’t Normal, which is set in East Los Angeles. Vasquez adds his own personal touch to the story.
“That’s where I grew up. It’s what I know. It is very colorful place in every sense of the word, very morally balanced. There’s a lot of good here, if that’s what you’re looking for, and there’s a lot of bad, if that’s what you’re looking for. Thematically, the novel could have been set just about anywhere. Could this story have been written and set in the suburbs of Baltimore or a village in Paraguay? Possibly, but it wouldn’t have been written by me,” he said.
Vasquez’s novel incorporates many events from his adolescence, including his love of poetry. First published as a poet in the California State University of Long Beach Literary Journal (1994), his use of fine diction and artistic language out of the ordinary in Steven Isn’t Normal.
“In college, I wrote a poem that I sent out for publication. That poem turned out to be my first publication. After that, I was hooked. The motto among my college friends and I was ‘Publish or Die.’ So, by the time I was finished with college, I had dozens of poems published in a bunch of magazines and journals, and four books of poetry published, one of which was published and edited by Gary Soto as part of his Chicano Chapbook Series.”
Now on the faculty at Suva Intermediate, Vasquez currently teaches Language Arts in intervention classes, assisting students struggling with the standard curriculum of their grade level. He works at changing the world, one word at a time.