María Juana's Gift
While America is preoccupied with its Bicentennial celebration, a young couple fights for the survival of their infant daughter in a town on the Arizona-Mexico border. Partially derived from actual events, María Juana's Gift is an impassioned fictional account of "preventable human medical error," a festering issue in 1976 that remains at the forefront of today's health care debate. Two dedicated bilingual educators, Jake Friend and Tina Linn, meet, marry, and decide to start a family as they continue their careers. Following two miscarriages, Tina gives birth in a small Arizona hospital. The baby seems healthy to Jake and the unconcerned staff, but Tina and a custodian/nurse's helper, Maria, believe the child is ill. Maria's lowly status and lack of English impel the medical "professionals" to dismiss her concerns. After Tina and Maria convince Jake that something is wrong, he begins a desperate and frantic effort to secure medical attention for the baby.
Though the unnerving theme of María Juana's Gift approaches the very core of inhumanity, the novel also celebrates the gratitude that Jake and Tina have for a "gift" they believe will stay with them for the rest of their lives.