In her first novel, A Girl Named Nina, Exeter Township resident Norma Tamayo shares the story of a young girl’s life inspired by her own.
Nina is a young Puerto Rican girl growing up in Brooklyn in the 1960s. Following Nina through her experience of growing up, readers learn about the culture in which Nina is immersed. A Girl Named Nina is targeted for young readers and, through the story, offers an introduction to the Puerto Rican culture and food, and to the Spanish language.
Like Nina, Tamayo was born and raised in New York City and says she was “exposed to the harsh realities of life.” The book tackles difficult and real issues of different forms of abuse, including bullying.
Tamayo began writing the novel 10 years ago but says, “I didn’t think I had the background for it. I thought who am I?”
But the story of Nina was just yearning to be told through Tamayo. “I would get up at 3 a.m.” to write Nina’s tale, the author shared.
The author was inspired by her own life, and those whose lives she has affected. But Tamayo strongly states that while occurrences in their lives may be similar, Nina’s story is that of her own. “It’s not my life, but it’s very similar,” the author shared. The author draws on the relationship she had with her own father.
“My relationship with my father is [Nina’s] relationship with her father. My father was a very special man.”
In a description of the book by the publisher, Nina’s “father adores and protects her, teaches her to read, and encourages the many gifts he sees within her.”
Tamayo worked as a Registered Nurse at Reading Hospital for more than 20 years, and now is a teacher. Tamayo never thought she would become a teacher or an author, as she always set her sights on the medical profession.
It was her uncle that was constantly asking Tamayo, “What are you going to do next?” and encouraged her to teach. When the opportunity fell in her lap, she let nothing hold her back and accepted a position teaching at Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center (RMCTC).
“I fell in love with the kids,” she said. Tamayo has now been teaching students at RMCTC for 17 years.
At RMCTC, Tamayo teaches 10th, 11th and 12th grade students from Reading, Muhlenberg, and Berks Catholic high schools through cross-training in the medical field to prepare them to further their education.
“My students have always been my biggest fans,” Tamayo said. The novel is another way for the teacher to connect with her students. “My students have gone through much worse than that,” she said.
While this was Tamayo’s first book, it will not be the last. She is already working on the second book to continue Nina’s story.
A Girl Named Nina is currently for sale on Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.