2021 San Francisco Writers Conference Young Adult Writing Contest Winner
Alicia Ortega, a 14-year-old Mexican girl, struggles to protect her father’s land when she and her older sisters are aggressively courted by land-hungry Yankees and rough-cut fur traders in the Spanish colony. It’s up to Alicia, her sister Clara, and their Chumash friend Nina to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the Ortega home and business.
When Alicia’s oldest sister is sent to finishing school in Texas for protection and refinement, the remaining younger sisters must run the rancho alone. Dangers on all sides begin to descend as the sisters are pursued by Yankee immigrant merchants and sailors hoping to cash in on rich lands and access to Pacific ports.
Alicia is trying her best to keep her family’s home and business afloat and thankfully, her companion, Nina is there to help. But as an indigenous girl, Nina is valuable to traders, trappers, and surveyors for her knowledge of the Californian terrain and her network of tribal relations. However, she won’t always be there to help Alicia’s family, especially since she has problems of her own. The Franciscan Mission is pressuring her family to convert to Catholicism, a charming trader is courting her, and, worst of all, their tribal territory and tribal ways are vanishing.
The girls struggle to protect the Ortega family’s land and black market dock from conniving suitors, but tough family secrets are threatening everything, and Alicia doesn’t know if they’ll be able to survive until her parents return.