-Silver Medal Winner of the 2017 FAPA President's Awards (contemporary/literary category)
Trying to escape the oppression leading him to drinking, drugs, and despair, 22-year-old William James rejects a teaching position offer at a prestigious Buffalo high school and moves to Mexico to find freedom in its beaches, mountains, and culture.
But soon, this freedom becomes oppressive as well as William finds himself unable to avoid the pull of the wild party scene in the small town of Lila where he lives. He continues a downward spiral until he meets a complex and compassionate Mexican woman whose love inspires him to face the question he’s been avoiding: Is this trip a desperate search for life or a slow death?
A dark but humorous coming-of-age novel, UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRAN explores many of the questions that haunt young people searching for love and their place in this world, and offers a poetic look at the raw beauty and healing power of Mexico.
Jonathan LaPoma is an award-winning, best-selling novelist, optioned screenwriter, songwriter, and poet from Buffalo, NY. In 2005, he received a BA in history and a secondary education credential from the State University of New York at Geneseo, and he traveled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico after graduating. These experiences have become the inspiration for much of his writing, which often explores themes of alienation and misery as human constructions that can be overcome through self-understanding and the acceptance of suffering.
LaPoma has written three novels, ten screenplays, and hundreds of songs and poems. His screenplays have won over 140 awards/honors at various international screenwriting competitions, and his black comedy script HARM FOR THE HOLIDAYS was optioned by Warren Zide along with Wexlfish Pictures (AMERICAN PIE, FINAL DESTINATION, THE BIG HIT) in July 2017. LaPoma's novel DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY is an Amazon Best Seller ("Satire" and "Urban Life" Kindle categories), and it won the 2015 Stargazer Literary Prizes (Visionary and Metaphysical Fiction category) and won the bronze medal in the 2016 Florida Authors and Publishers Association's President's Awards (Adult eBook category). His novel UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRAN is a finalist in the 2017 FAPA President's Awards (Contemporary/Literary category). He lives in San Diego and teaches at a public secondary school.
"LaPoma obviously knows Mexico well, framing the nation not by its problems but by the hearts of its people . . . the descriptions of Mexican locales are as vibrant, colorful, and illuminating as the novel’s unique characters. The author can write about serious things with humor, and Will’s tale shows an understanding of Mexico that goes beyond the ordinary."
"I loved Understanding the Alacran. Loved. It. . . beautifully written, funny, moving and all-round wonderful coming of age story. LaPoma has done an excellent job in creating characters that his readers will be able to connect with, relate to and truly come to care about. Absolutely read this book. . . My very highest recommendation."
–Chris Fischer, Readers Favorite, 5 Stars
"LaPoma takes time to create a sense of people, place, and why situations evolve; not just how – and these elements are what gives the story added value and impact as the landscapes of Mexico and William’s psyche immerse readers in the mental and physical atmosphere of the story . . . an appealing, engrossing story that moves beyond the traditional coming of age approach to add social and cultural concerns into the mix . . . Given the latest state of affairs between the U.S. and Mexico, its undercurrent of social understanding and issues mixed with psychological examination makes it an especially relevant, timely read."
–Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review
"Unique and accessible . . . brilliant story that explores the evil of drugs, a man’s struggle for freedom, and redemption through love . . . the finish is awesome."
–Divine Zape, Readers Favorite, 5 Stars
"I enjoyed the protagonist’s journey, the passage from despair to hope, and above all, the search for inner freedom. Readers will also love the compelling characters and the way the author captures Mexican culture, its beautiful setting with its smells and sounds in this inspiring tale . . . a wonderful coming-of-age story."
–Arya Fomonyuy, Readers Favorite, 4 Stars