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UTPB Coach Pens Novel On Illegal Immigration, Abuse Based On Real Life Survivor

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

ODESSA - The plight of illegal immigrants isn't an uncommon story. It's also the basis of the first novel written by University of Texas Permian Basin's Athletic Director.

It's called From the Mountains to the Valley to the Promised Land: The Journey of Luz Luna, but according to author, Steve Aicinena,  it could be anyone's story.

"People who've already read the book have said that it could be the story of my parents, and I've even had people say it's their family's story," he said. 

In the book the main character, Luz, attempts to escape a life of poverty, and sexual and domestic violence by crossing the border multiple times illegally. The idea came to Aicinena when a casual encounter with a woman unveiled skeletons in her closet. Eventually, she asked him to write her story in hopes that by telling it, other people could be helped.

Aicinena talked to dozens of people and logged hours of research to put it together.

"What the train was like, what kind of vegetation their was, how big the cliffs were, what kind of animals there were etc. A whole host of things," he explained. "I wanted to make sure that the book was going to be as accurate as possible for the readers so they could really appreciate what this individual went through."

The novel is a first for Aicinena who's also a professor of Kinesiology and the volleyball coach at UTPB.  

He said it took a little over two difficult years to write the book, but that the motivation was clear.

"As somebody who's grown up in this country and has had all the benefits and privileges that the country has provided me, it's really hard for me and I think for many of us who live in this country to understand why somebody wants to come here so desperately. So part of the purpose in telling this story is to help those of us that are so blessed understand why we are so fortunate to have that," he said.

The novel is particularly timely considering the recent mass migrations of Central American children. And for Aicinena, the book's not so hidden messages about humanity say it all. he explained how "Luz de Luna literally translates to "light of the moon," and why that's significant.

"The moon reflects the light of the sun, and in the same way we should try to reflect goodness in the things we do," he said, adding that each chapter starts with scripture.

"My sincere hope is that people can read it and that it does impact them and that it's food for thought in terms of how through our humble actions we can try to help other people to a better life," he said.

There hasn't been an official launch party or book signing yet, but Aicinena said to look out for it in the upcoming weeks. 

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