February 4, 2021
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Maria E. Andreu's young adult novel Love in English engagingly explores themes of identity and immigration as well as the idiosyncrasies of the English language.
Library Journal wrote of the book:
"Andreu creates a realistic portrait of the obstacles facing English language learners in the United States. Her characters are nuanced and their interactions endearing. Teenagers and adults alike will gain necessary perspective from reading this accessible story about a topic that affects millions...An engaging novel about language, culture, and empathy."
Love in English is a story about being new in the U.S. and learning English—an experience I myself had as young girl. It’s also full of the push and pull of finding love. Ultimately, it’s about crafting a new future when everything you thought you knew changes. So this playlist has got a bit of all that: love, longing, aspiring, '80s rom-com soundtrack, and a high note at the end.
“Are We Still Friends?” Tyler, the Creator
I could listen to this song all day long. And it was particularly appropriate to getting in the mood of Love in English, which has a love triangle and is all about trying to read the signs in relationships. It’s a smoky and sexy song, but the lyrics are unsure: Are we still friends? I like that juxtaposition.
“Sí Llegó el Amor” by María Campos
María Campos is an Argentinian singer with a fun, fusion sound and sharp lyrics. Ana, the main character in Love in English, has just moved to the U.S. from Argentina, and although I bet she’s been keeping up with all the latest music in the U.S., undoubtedly she’s got some Campos on her playlist.
“We Fell in Love in October” Girl in Red
My characters meet at the start of a school year, so they very well could have fallen in love in October. Also, Girl in Red is a Norwegian group, and I love the idea of inspiration coming from artists all over the world, just like the words in Neo’s diary are in many different languages.
“Love Language” by Ariana Grande
When writing a book that examines language, it’s fun to search for songs that mention language, and especially how it relates to love. This song fits the bill.
“Say So” by Doja Cat
I’m obsessed with the loungey vibe of this song. And it touches on themes that the book does: why don’t we always say what we feel? Why don’t we “say so?”
“Somewhere Only We Know” cover by Lily Allen
This one’s here because I am a total sap. When I have to tap into that urgent moment in a love scene or that feeling of losing someone who seems vital to your happiness, I listen to songs like this one. It is so bittersweet and full of longing and speaks so perfectly to what it’s like to be in love.
“All I Want” Kodaline
Ditto for this one. This song can gut me. “If you loved me, why’d you leave me?” Required listening when writing the second act low.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
Ana and Neo, two of the characters in my latest novel, watch American movies in their quest to understand English, which is a new language to both of them. Part of my research for writing these scenes was to revisit some of these movies with the sound off, to see what I would glean if I didn’t understand/couldn’t hear the dialogue. It was a chance to pay homage to some of my favorite 80s rom-coms, like The Breakfast Club, which made this song famous.
“Electric Love” by Børns
I find this to be such a deeply cinematic song, particularly around the refrain. I can imagine it playing during certain scenes. Also, it’s a song from 2015 but I swear it belongs in an '80s rom-com. And it captures the exhilarating feeling of being in love so well.
“You Speak My Language” Morphine
Here’s another song about language. “They look at me when I talk to them and they shrug their shoulders” could very well sum up the feeling of first learning English, as I once had to as a non-native speaker. Plus it’s a song with a little edge that can keep me going when I want to quit.
“Lindos Problemas” Malena Villa
Another Argentinian singer/actor, this song has a fun beat even for non-Spanish speakers and some cool lyrics for those who do speak it. “I feel better when you’re near” is among my favorites. It’s a pragmatic, fun look at the desire to be near someone.
“How I Feel” by Ari and the Alibis
I got to see this band live in a tiny venue in Florida and they were mind-blowing. This is a heady, sexy song, perfect when I need to get in the headspace for writing love scenes.
“My Future” Billie Eilish
Much of what Ana is striving for in Love in English is to craft a new future for herself, so a song about being in love with one’s own future is absolutely perfect. Plus: Billie Eilish. Am I the only one who plays “Bad Guy” on loop while putting on makeup to get in the “I am badass” headspace? I can’t be.
“You Don’t Know Me” Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
This gorgeous song, originally made famous by Ray Charles (and written by Cindy Walker) has long been one of my favorites for conjuring up those feelings of longing. This cover by the endlessly talented Kamakawiwoʻole adds something beautiful and wistful to it.
“Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony
As the feeling I want Love in English to leave readers with, this is about as close as it gets. The song is a celebration, an anthem, a source of pride. For me, it taps into the feeling of the immigrant experience, the striving, the pride, the perseverance through hardship (even though Marc Anthony was born in New York, so I don’t know if that’s what he intended!). It makes me think of the generations of people who decided they were going to “live their lives” despite the difficulties they faced, the people who struggled and strove to get me to where I am today. “I’m going to laugh, I’m going to dance.” It’s a celebration of being alive and living life on one’s own terms.
Maria E. Andreu is an Argentinian American author whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the Newark Star Ledger. Her debut young adult novel, The Secret Side of Empty, inspired by her experiences as an undocumented immigrant and a speaker of English as a second language, is a Junior Library Guild Selection, a National Indie Excellence Book Award winner, and an International Latino Book Awards finalist. Find her online at www.mariaeandreu.com.