The King County Bar Association reviewed Mas Alla de la Justicia
I am pleased to say that the King County Bar Association recently reviewed Mas Alla de la Justicia. You can read the full article here. Former Defender Turned Author Earns Raves
By Norma Linda Urena
I oftentimes will read to my mother, who speaks only Spanish. I read her everything and anything I find written in Spanish. So, it was a given that I would read her Mas Alla de la Justicia (Beyond Justice), a legal fiction novel authored by local writer Maria de Lourdes Victoria (Maria Victoria).
Victoria worked as a King County public defender with The Public Defender Association after graduating from the University of Washington School of Law in 1992. As I read the novel to my 82-year-old mother, I was surprised to find some pretty sexy, hot-and-heavy lovemaking scenes. Finding myself in the middle of a love-making scene, I read quickly, without changing the tone of my voice. My mother just listened.
When I finished the love scene, she sighed quietly in relief. I sighed silently to myself. However, we both looked forward to the reading every day. The story and the characters grabbed our attention. I was happy to give my mother a glimpse into my life as an attorney; she seemed to especially enjoy the descriptive lives and drama surrounding the characters.
I recently sat down with Victoria to discuss her book. She looked at me suspiciously as I began to ask her questions. I reassured her that I was intensely interested in her book and what drove her to write it. She relaxed and revealed that her goal in writing the book was to present the feminine perspective of the criminal justice system.
Victoria was thoughtful and deliberate as she opened up. She explained, "Most stories about our justice system are told from the male perspective, whether it is the defendant or the attorney or the judge, or whoever, it is told from the male point of view. The necessary balance of life and work is usually not reflected in those stories.
"I am a mother of two boys (now men) and my perspective of the justice system seemed to be different from how I saw it being portrayed on television or the big screen or even in novels. I wrote this book with the idea of sharing that perspective. I wanted my readers to consider what it is like to work inside the system, in the pursuit of justice, from a motherly and/or sisterly point of view".
I asked Victoria whether she identified with any of her characters and she was quick to respond, "I feel closer to the attorney character, of course, Sofía, but I am not Sofia. My book is not a memoir, and none of my characters are real people.
"Sofia is the public defender who is fresh out of law school and is eager to defend her clients. She basically embodies that young, idealistic attorney who is ready to change the world while juggling her motherly responsibilities. Her legal abilities are vastly dwarfed by her inexperience and her immense passion for justice on behalf of her clients. But Sofia, like the rest of my characters, is not any one person, but a combination of personalities."
Victoria explained that one of her objectives in writing the book was to explore the role the defense plays in the criminal justice system. People often question and misunderstand the importance of that role.
When she worked as a public defender, family and friends were constantly asking her, "How can you sleep at night?"; "How can you defend someone who is guilty?"; "How can you help someone 'get away' with a crime you know they committed?" The novel asks these questions through the cases the characters ultimately resolve. The defense team strives to protect, not necessarily the accused themselves, but the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
The layers of complexity are exposed, as sometimes those same rights are at odds and can pull at each other. Then, there is a very emotional part of the book where Sofia and her boss discuss ethical duties and responsibilities. There are no easy answers. There are a few different ones, such as to seek the resolution your client desires or to do what is in your client's best interest. As a criminal defense attorney, oftentimes these are two very distinct and different goals, exclusive of one another.
"When I wrote this book, it became therapy for me," Victoria explained. "I needed to understand how this role shaped me or how I was to use it to grow and be a better person. And when I finished writing the book, I was done with the whole experience. I handed the novel to my sister, who is my biggest fan, and said, 'You can have it. I don't want to know anything more about it.'"
Unbeknownst to Victoria, her sister entered the book in a Spanish-language literary contest for the Premio Planeta Award. "It is the second most coveted literary award in the Spanish literary world after the Nobel Prize for Literature," Victoria said. The winner receives 601,000; second prize is 150,000.
"In terms of a single book prize, it is the highest monetary award in the world," she said. "I laughed when she told me, but she encouraged me to check the Internet for the list of finalists. I did, and at first, I didn't think I made the list. I was looking for my novel under the working title and had forgotten that the final submission was under a new title. Also, my sister had submitted the book anonymously.
"So, only after I had convinced myself that I had not won anything — after all there were 509 submissions — much to my astonishment, the book was in that list! In the top 10. The official announcement would be in Barcelona, Spain in a matter of weeks. I excitedly booked my flight and my sister accompanied me. The gala dinner was akin to the Academy Awards. My book was eliminated last and took third place. I didn't win any money, but I did earn confidence."
Mas Alla de la Justicia is Victoria's second published novel. Her first book, Les Dejo el Mar (I Leave You the Sea), is an historical novel based on her family history, patched together from her memories growing up and the stories her relatives passed down to the next generation. Les Dejo el Mar was a finalist for the prestigious Premio Mariposa Book Award.
Victoria is currently working on her third novel, another historical love story between a Zapotec woman and an Irish man, set in Oaxaca in 1847. Victoria also writes short stories and children's books
Mas Alla de la Justicia is available to readers through Victoria's webpage at www.Mariadelourdesvictoria.com. It is currently sold only in Spanish; for publication in another language, enough copies must be sold to motivate a publisher to buy the foreign rights and have Victoria's book translated.
When Maria is not writing, she manages her mediation services firm, Peaceful Agreements, the only completely bilingual mediation service in King County.