Working Together for a Bright Future

VHS teacher Adaliz De Jesus adds published author to her resume

Moving to a new country can be challenging, especially for a child. Even more so for a child who does not speak the language. Vineland High School Spanish teacher Adaliz De Jesús knows these challenges firsthand, and she shares them in her upcoming book, “The Eighth Grade Dance and Other Memories.” 
De Jesús, who has been teaching in Vineland since 2006, describes the book as a series of nearly 60 vignettes, ranging from a paragraph to a few pages, describing her move from Puerto Rico to Chicago at age 11. Each anecdote tackles a different memory or life lesson often told humorously with a “surprise” at the end. These surprises form the core theme of the book – to not take oneself seriously. 
“It’s important for us to find the humor in things,” De Jesús said. “That’s what I want to share. I want people to feel like they’re not alone, that these things aren’t a big deal. We all go through it.”
The idea for the book began two years ago, during one stressful night after her daughter had been admitted to the ER. An avid diarist, De Jesús turned to her journal and began recounting memories from her middle school years. By the end of the night, she had written 12 pages. After researching publishers who specialized in coming-of-age stories, she submitted the rough draft and right around New Year’s Day two years ago, was told there was interest in her story. The only caveat? She had to turn 12 pages into 70. 
“I think in the end 60 pages were used,” she said, noting that the length and format of the vignettes make them a somewhat untraditional read. 
“It’s a very migrant feeling, with the way the chapters are told,” she said. “But it’s good. It’s how your brain works, when you come to a new place and the rules are different. It really immerses you in the tone of the story.”
The book is being published as a flip book, told in both English and Spanish. The district plans to incorporate it into the curriculum in the future, in both traditional language arts classes and bilingual classes. 
“I believe that all of our bilingual success stories make this a truly unique and exceptional place for our students to learn and grow,” said Dr. JoAnne Negrin, Supervisor of ESL, World Languages, Bilingual Education, and Performing Arts. “What a wonderful opportunity for our students to see themselves in the literature they read, and what a fine role model for them to have.”
With the first book under her belt, De Jesús would like to continue writing. She would like to expand this book series to explore her college years or turn to fiction as a new outlet. Her experience writing this book has been rewarding, regardless of what her next book will tackle. 
“It’s bonded me to my family more,” she said. “It’s made me be more open about these things with my daughters. It’s been very rewarding, both personally and professionally.”
The book will be available to own on May 31 and can be preordered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She will be holding her first book signing on June 19 during Hammonton’s third Thursday event at the Casciano Coffee Bar, 212 Bellevue Ave. at 6pm.