ABOUT CAROLINE ALETHIA
Caroline Alethia is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, on radio and in web outlets. Her words have reached audiences on six continents. She lived in Bolivia and was a witness to many of the events described in Plant Teacher. You can visit her website at www.plantteacherthebook.net. Website |Twitter | Facebook | Amazon | Amazon Kindle Store |Official Tour Page
Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Plant Teacher takes place in Bolivia from 2007 to 2008 during President Evo Morales’ contested consolidation of power. The book follows the lives of members of the American expatriate community in that country.
Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?
I lived in Bolivia during the time period in which Plant Teacher takes place, and I noticed something interesting. The country was in turmoil. There were mass hunger strikes, protests that turned violent, occasional riots, seemingly capricious military road blocks.
Yet, during all this unrest, people also went about their lives as usual. I personally, for an extended period of time, walked through a plaza filled with hunger strikers and entered my favorite café and passed the morning drinking coffee. In the café, dozens of other people did exactly the same.
I realized that people need normalcy and when the world is not normal they will go on as if – as if life is not in chaos. I placed my characters from Plant Teacher in this tumultuous setting in Bolivia and then let them lead their lives in this schizophrenic way – falling in and out of love, pursuing their careers, nurturing their hobbies – and pretending that the world around them is normal.
Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?
While in Bolivia, I met a retired U.S. Army colonel who had tried caapi, an indigenous hallucinogenic drug. He had found the experience to be spiritually enlightening, but I was skeptical: Is it really possible to purchase wisdom? Plant Teacher’s main character, Martin Banzer, tries caapi at the beginning of the book and soon realizes he’s made a devil’s bargain. His quick trip to enlightenment comes at a cost.
What cause are you most passionate about and why?
I believe in embracing diversity. I have lived overseas for thirteen years in six foreign countries and I received my master’s degree in international relations. I think it is important to try to understand the different values and belief systems of peoples of other cultures. I also think it’s important to try to understand international politics. Our world is made up of so many different peoples and so many nations and we need to try to understand one another.
What are some of your long term goals?
I love the theories of Austrian psychiatrist, Alfred Adler, and I worked a bit of Adlerian theory into Plant Teacher. I have drafted a self-help book on how to interpret early memories in the Adlerian style, and I’d like to publish and promote this book. I’d actually like to see it going a step farther with an informal network of Adlerian groups sprouting up across the country.
What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as an author?
I have to say that the hardest thing I’ve ever written – much harder than writing a novel – is a federal grant. Federal grants require rigorous research and then the ability to design a project and to sell that project to the grantor. It’s a combination of high-level academic writing and straight-up marketing that’s hard to do right. I’ve won several federal grants, and I’m very proud of this fact.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I’d like to thank you for this opportunity. I hope you and your readers enjoy Plant Teacher.
ABOUT PLANT TEACHER
Hailed by Huffington Post contributor Joel Hirst as a compelling and powerful story, Plant Teacher begins in 1972 when a hippie in Oakland, California flushes a syringe of LSD down a toilet. Thirty-five years later, the wayward drug paraphernalia has found its final resting place in Los Yungas, Bolivia, the umbilical cord between the Andes and Amazonia. Enter into this picture two young Americans, Cheryl Lewis, trying to forge her future in La Paz and Martin Banzer, trying to come to terms with his past in the same city. The two form an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of a country teetering at the brink of dictatorship and revolution. Bolivia sparks the taste for adventure in both young people and Martin finds himself experimenting with indigenous hallucinogenic plants while Cheryl flits from one personal relationship to another. Meanwhile, the syringe buried in the silt in a marsh in Los Yungas will shape their destinies more than either could anticipate or desire.Plant Teacher takes its readers on a fast-paced tour from the hippie excesses of Oakland, to the great streams of the Pacific Ocean and to the countryside, cities, natural wonders and ancient ruins of Bolivia. It reveals the mundane and the magical, and, along the way, readers glimpse the lives of everyday Bolivians struggling to establish equanimity or merely eke out a living during drastic political crisis.