The unbreakable bond between brothers
Federico Erebia’s debut YA novel, Pedro & Daniel, explores mental health and neurodivergence through the AIDS pandemic.
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Retired physician Federico Erebia’s debut Young Adult novel, Pedro & Daniel, is the perfect coming-of-age book that follows two Mexican American brothers growing up in 1970s Ohio—exploring the AIDS pandemic while navigating colorism and intrafamilial homophobia that rock their family life.
Federico was born in Port Clinton, Ohio. He received a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Wooster and an MD from Brown University. He is part of the SCBWI Impact & Legacy Fund Steering Committee, is in the inaugural Poets & Writers publicity incubator for debut authors, is a GrubStreet Writer, and is an active member of several other writing groups.
His story unravels the resentment Pedro’s mother feels that her child looks like his dark-skinned father and Daniel’s inclination to play with dolls—neither boy is interested in playing sports.
In a guest post, he mentioned, “We were expected to play sports in an ill-conceived attempt to coax a non-existent talent out of us. We were miserable in our lackluster pursuits.”
They are cut from the same cloth.
Despite their similarities, they were relatively different in their struggles, dreams, and approaches to life. He explains they had “conflicting views about religion and divergent relationships with the Catholic Church. We had very different experiences with HIV/AIDS: I became an HIV primary care specialist, and he succumbed to the maldito virus, when we had few treatment options to offer our patients.”
The first cases of AIDS reported in the United States were in June of 1981, and according to The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), “More than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. and there are more than 35,000 new infections each year. More than 700,000 people in the U.S. have died from HIV-related illness.”
But the brothers shared many memories, despite the health challenges Daniel was facing; an excursion to Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, while Daniel was still healthy.
Sadly, he further discusses in the article that upon Daniel’s death he requested the book he had purchased at the museum be given to him because “I used it as a reference when writing about that weekend in Pedro & Daniel.”
Despite both children being neurodivergent, a term coined by Judy Singer, an Australian sociologist in 1998, the children excelled in education. Pedro & Daniel is a beautifully crafted novel that could have easily been a fictional memoir, something Federico says “The novel is equally about each main character,” not solely about his experience navigating the intricacies of life.
The story, written in a lyrical style, full of dichos or proverbs, captures the melancholic narratives that at times, the author conveys through standard prose and the mixing of writing to create a “subtle and visceral emotion,” only heightened by the use of Spanglish.
“The last time I saw my brother was at the AIDS Memorial Quilt display on the National Mall in Washington DC,” he said in his post. “The novel ends with a full-circle, fifty-word reference to the central theme in the first chapter of the book. These fifty words are the first words I wrote about Pedro and Daniel. I thought it was particularly poignant to end the novel with these words, paired with a photo of myself with Daniel, my brother, taken a few months before the events that start this novel.”
Although Daniel died in 1933, he declares that his “one true treasure was Daniel, my brother.”
Erebia lives in Massachusetts with his husband and their Westie and Whippet in the house he designed and renovated.