‘Ramón and Julieta’: You know Shakespeare’s story, but here’s a cultural twist set largely in La Jolla
La Jolla gets a major role in author Alana Quintana Albertson’s latest novel, a modern take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” that functions not only as a romance between her Latinx characters but also as her “love letter” to San Diego.
“Ramón and Julieta,” published Feb. 1, is Quintana Albertson’s 30th book. All of her novels — mostly romances — have been set locally. “I love using San Diego as a character,” she said.
Quintana Albertson, a Poway resident whose children attend school in La Jolla, said it was important to place the character Ramón in La Jolla — he attended The Bishop’s School and lives in Bird Rock, while his father lives in Muirlands and his mother in The Shores — to “compare and contrast to [Julieta’s] location in Barrio Logan.”
Julieta is a taqueria owner and a resident of “a smaller area [with] more of an ethnic community,” Quintana Albertson said.
Ramón has a “surfer beach bro vibe … and plays golf at the La Jolla Country Club. He’s very La Jolla.”
Quintana Albertson, whose mother is Mexican, said it was important to feature wealthy Latinx characters in La Jolla to offer “this amazing, joy-filled Latinx story … contrasted with the maids and gardeners” who also are Latinx.
She writes in “Ramón and Julieta” that “there would be no La Jolla without Mexicans.”
“Somehow, in Latinx media representations, we’re often cast as the drug dealers, gang members or maids and gardeners,” she said. “I just really wanted this breadth of experience and to be less stereotypical. … I really wanted to show a very diverse take on the culture.”
Though Quintana Albertson often writes characters who are Mexican or half-Mexican, as she is, “Ramón and Julieta” is her first effort to “really go in deep with the culture.”
“One of Ramón’s main issues … is that he never really feels connected and he deeply wants to,” she said, touching on her own previous struggles to be accepted in the Latinx community.
Ramón goes through that as well, Quintana Albertson said. “I try to deal with issues of both class and race, so it’s got a lot of layers.”
“Ramón and Julieta” is intended as the inaugural book in a series called “Love & Tacos,” Quintana Albertson said. The next one, set for release in February 2023, will be called “Kiss Me, Mi Amor” and will be based on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” while delving into aspects of Latinx culture different from those in the first book.
The third book — as yet untitled, though Quintana Albertson said it might be “Much Ado About Nada” — will be released in 2024. She said she’s unsure how many books will be in the series.
On the more immediate horizon, however, is a filmed version of “Ramón and Julieta.” Television rights to the story have been optioned, though Quintana Albertson said she’s currently unable to provide more details. But she’s optimistic it will be filmed in La Jolla.
“Ramón and Julieta” is available at Warwick’s bookstore, 7812 Girard Ave., La Jolla, and at warwicks.com. ◆
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