María Amparo Escandón is a best-selling bilingual novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and film producer. Her work has won several awards and has been recognized for addressing bicultural themes in the United States. Her stories focus on family relationships in the Latino community, sense of loss, forgiveness, faith, cultural identity and self-discovery.
Her distinctive style uses multiple voice narrations and a cleverly humorous, quirky, compassionate and feminine angle that allows her to capture the odd reality of everyday life. She is among the top contemporary Latin American female writers, and a renowned author in many countries: her work has been translated into 22 languages and is currently read in more than 86 countries.
Living in Los Angeles, Escandón began observing her culture of origin from a distance, which allowed her a fresh and deeper look into traditional facets of Mexican life: such as the Mexicans' unique brand of Catholicism intertwined with Pre-Columbian influences; women's position in society, subjugated to men but pillars of the family; illegal immigration and the love-hate relationship between Mexico and the United States; and the intense longing for the country of origin tempered by the hatred of Mexican government corruption, all of which she drew upon to write both her novels and non-fiction works.
Escandón wrote her first novel, Esperanza's Box of Saints (Simon & Schuster), and its Spanish version, Santitos (Random House), in 1999. She addresses the universal fear of losing a child, a woman's search for identity, and a journey –both geographical and spiritual– that takes Esperanza, the protagonist, through sordid brothels from Mexico to Los Angeles. The book was the number one best seller in the Los Angeles Times Best Sellers List. Escandón has been named the Writer to Watch by Newsweek magazine and by the Los Angeles Times.
Based on her novel Esperanza’s Box of Saints, Escandón wrote the screenplay Santitos at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. The film was produced by John Sayles. It was the third highest grossing Mexican film in Mexico during 1999, and successfully released in Spain and Latin America in 2000. To date, it has received awards in 17 film festivals worldwide, such as the Latin Cinema Award, Sundance Film Festival; Best Film, Guadalajara Film Festival; Best Film, Los Angeles Latino Film Festival; Best Actress, Festival International du Film d'Amiens; Grand Jury Award, Cartagena International Film Festival, Special Jury Award, Rencontres Cinémas de Toulouse; and Best Opera Prima, Découverte de la Critique Française.
Her second novel, González & Daughter Trucking Co. (Random House), and its Spanish version, Transportes González e Hija (Vintage Español), were published in 2005. Set in a Mexican prison and highways of the US Southwest, it deals with a young woman’s coming-of-age, paternal possessiveness and gender double standards in Mexican society. The novel also explores women's relationships, guilt, crime, passion, corruption and forgiveness within the context of a hybrid culture. This work also reflects the linguistic reality of bicultural California and the Southwest, by exploring the merger of Spanish and English vernacular into Spanglish, as well as different sub-culture lingoes, like trucker-speak.
In addition to teaching Creative Writing at UCLA Extension since 1994 and touring high schools and colleges around the United States, Latin America and Europe to speak to students about the social issues addressed in her work, Escandón has been an advisor at the Sundance Screenwriters Labs in Mexico and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for Carla Esmeralda and Rio Filme, Fundaçao Joaquim Nabuco in Recife, as well as at the Fundación Contenidos de Creación Fiction Workshops in Barcelona. She also participates as a mentor for young minority writers at the PEN Center's Emerging Voices Program. She is one of the founding members of Frijolywood, the official Mexican Filmmakers' association in Hollywood.
Escandón founded the Wings for the Soul Book Club at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California, hoping to provide incarcerated Latina young women positive role models, inspiration and a sense of empowerment and belonging. She also has participated in Buenanueva Foundation, dedicated to helping teen moms learn maternal and self-reliance skills, as well as support, so they can go back to school.
Escandón has recently completed the screenplay based on her novel González & Daughter Trucking Co. The film is currently in active development at her production company, The Other Truth Productions.