La Jolla resident’s debut novel gets Most Inspirational award from International Society of Latino Authors

La Jolla resident Alma Lazar says the story in her book "When the Light Goes Out" "had to be told."
(Courtesy of Alma Lazar)

“I felt I needed to write this book. I discovered this story that changed my view on life, and I knew it had to be told,” 26-year La Jolla resident Alma Lazar said of her debut novel, “When the Light Goes Out.”

The book’s Spanish version was named the Most Inspirational Nonfiction Book by the International Society of Latino Authors during the International Latino Book Awards held Oct. 16-18 online.

The story, she said, “is a novel based on true facts. It is the story of a man’s tenacity, love and perseverance. Every time he falls, he stands up taller and stronger.”

“There are no obstacles that can stop us from reaching our goals, no matter how impossible they may seem.”

— Alma Lazar

Lazar met the man whose story inspired her protagonist, Jorge, while volunteering with a local nonprofit.

“When he told me his story, I was changed,” Lazar said. “He was born and raised in extreme poverty, his family was so poor that all they had to eat at one point was tortillas and mayo. He was one of four children raised by a single mother who had dreams of being famous; she loved to dance and sing and thought she would make it big.”

The mother blamed her children for her lack of celebrity, and she physically abused them.

By the time “Jorge” was 20, he had climbed the ladder at a restaurant chain from busboy to manager and had earned enough money to buy his mother and siblings a house.

From there, he moved to Tijuana and started his own businesses.

But, Lazar said, “life hit him again and he needed to start over from the bottom. But through it all, he shows you what a great heart he has and what an optimistic way to see the world he holds. He reacted to tragedies by wanting to do something better in his life.”

She said the book has three messages: “First, no one in this world has the right to abuse a child in any form. The second one is the beauty of volunteering, because volunteering has brought so much into my life, including the chance to hear these stories. The last is that there are no obstacles that can stop us from reaching our goals, no matter how impossible they may seem.”

She said it was “amazing” to be commended by the International Society of Latino Authors. “I can’t express what an immense honor it was to be recognized. I feel humbled and grateful to the judges.”

That recognition may have led her to the next step in Jorge’s story. “One of the judges suggested the story might make a good movie or television series, so I’m submitting for adaptation,” she said.

The experience also “motivated me to keep writing,” Lazar said. She has “a couple of ideas for other books” also rooted in people’s true stories.

“Some are really intense and some are really out of the ordinary,” she said. “There is a whole world out there of people’s stories of overcoming and becoming successful.”

Lazar will have a book presentation at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Learn more at ◆