Time is a mysterious dimension to explore. When you’re young there seems to be so much of it, but you don’t yet know that it’s beyond your control.
From 1965 to 1995 (during Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, GHWBush, and Clinton presidencies) I worked on a novel about growing up in Midwest America. It started as a tale about teenage adventures, based on people I knew. I no longer saw those people, as I worked at different jobs in different parts of the world—New York, California, India, Vermont, and at Harvard, where I earned a PhD.
Every ten years or so I had learned a lot more about life and the culture had changed, so I had to update and up the ante. The story grew and some parts broke off like tree limbs in a storm, and the narration changed, getting richer in the process. For example, when I realized the most interesting kid in the story was a Chicano, he became the narrator.
By 1990 the theme of two brothers had become a major motif: the reminiscing narrator and his roughneck older brother; the two trickster brothers of Native American stories, and two half-brothers in the grown-ups’ community, a priest and a big businessman. With so many male figures and only a few females, I began to realize the story needed an extraordinary woman.
While I was visiting my hometown, my father happened to drive me past two places: Rodman Experimental Lab, at the Rock Island Arsenal where he worked, and Hero Street in Silvis, a Mexican-American neighborhood which had sent generations of young men to fight in the wars our nation has fought.
I had been reading anthropological findings and speculations about the earliest human beings, and I wondered, what would it be like if in the government lab at the Rock Island Arsenal, researchers had been experimenting with a method to retrieve the first human? And what if my narrator, Cruz, happened to be there visiting a guard he and his pals knew, when a woman from the earliest days of humanity emerged through a wormhole in time, into the anomalous substance swirling in the huge torus in Rodman Lab? What if he could help the pregnant sixteen year old mother of the human race escape from the government lab, so that she could share some adventures with the teenage gang he hung out with, back in the early ‘60s?
To imagine what an early human being, whom Cruz calls “Lupita,” would experience in a modern Midwest small town springtime was a gradual process. It gave me fresh encounters with everyday experiences. What Lupita brought to the story was a depth of humanity, a dimension from beyond the ordinary world of our times.
Because the novel was already a coming of age story about a Vietnam vet looking back and remembering teenage years, and an anti-war novel with a Native American motif of brothers, I haven’t wanted to hit people over the head with it being a time-travel novel too. But it is. Lupita is brought into the modern age and shares experiences with other teenage kids who are about to graduate from high school. Then she is sent back through time to her (and our) origins with a reversal of the anomalous torus technology at Rodman Lab.
The evolution of the story itself travelled through time for over three decades, and like its author, and its hero and heroine, it grew and changed in the journey.
The title of the novel is Diving for Carlos, and the link at amazon.com is