Guadalupe: Islands of Sand. A Graphic Novel Concept.


A Graphic Novel Concept

Side Note I want my graphic novel to track two separate, but parallel narratives; one being the story of my Great Grandmother, and the other a constructed narrative where the desert/the earth is the main character in which the narrative is written more along the lines of poetry. I realize that in the end, this second narrative might not be strong enough to include in the finished work, but it will help me make connections between my main character and the environment around her.



Late 1930’s in Piedras Negras, Mexico; a somewhat desert landscape.


List of Characters

 Guadalupe- Mid-late twenties. Strong frame and distinct features.Maria- Guadalupe’s daughter. 7-8 years old.

Bertha- Guadalupe’s daughter. 5-6 years old

Margerita- Guadalupe’s daughter 3-4 years old

Grandma- Guadalupe’s mother. Same build as Guadalupe, similar features but mid-50’s

Grandpa- Guadalupe’s father. Pepper hair. Slender. Early 60’s.


Story Preface
Her full name was Guadalupe Dominguez de Ordonez. She was born in 1911 in Piedras Negras, Chihuahua, Mexico. She was born the same day one of her cousins was hung by Pancho Villa’s gang. She was the first born of 12 children and my mother’s grandmother; and for the latter part of her childhood, my mother’s only caregiver. This graphic novel is a loosely based version of her story. The major events of her life, the events told here, need no exaggeration or fabrication, and while I had to take creative liberties filling in the details with what little physical evidence and facts I have, and while I never had the honor of actually meeting my great grandmother, I envision this project as a conversation with her more than a retelling of her life. I tell her story because it is what I have. It is the untidy strand that ties me to the border, forever rooted as a child of the desert. My roots, as they say, are precisely what my great grandmother made them. They follow the paths that she paved, the roads that she traveled, and begin and end where she began and ended. I simply want to honor that.


  Book I
Book Title Guadalupe: Islands of Sand


  • Letter chapters (A-E) are poetic interludes. They formulate their own narrative but run parallel to the main story. (These chapters may not be strong enough to include in the final version, but they help show the method and intent behind this project.)
  • Number chapters (1-8) are the main story.
  • The tile progressions function as another level of visual narrative. Every page will be embedded in a margin of “Mexican” style tiles (as opposed to white gutters). From page to page the tiles will change, (patterns getting tighter or looser, colors getting darker or lighter) as a way to emphasize the central narrative in the main panels.


Chapter A Title: A Sum of Islands
Summary Tile Progression
Poetic interlude 1The reader is introduced to the desert- a passionate lover, burnt by her torrid love affair and left separated from her love (the rain) for what seems to be forever. A Plain Saltillo Style Border- white washed or sandy color/ faded color
Chapter One Title: Fissures
Summary Tile Progression
Guadalupe decides to take her three children and leave her abusive husband and a loveless marriageShe goes to her parents but her mom refuses to help her.Her mother holds Guadalupe’s youngest daughter bertha hostage. She says that she will only give her back if Guadalupe returns to her husband. Flower petal tile with a “loves me, loves me not” progression
Chapter Two Title: Black-Eyed Moon
Summary Tile Progression
This chapter shows the struggles in the desert at night- the noises, the children cold and cranky.Guadalupe remembers a time when she and her sister were washing clothes at the river with her aunt, and the mischief she caused.The memory complicates Guadalupe’s feelings of love and resentment for her mother.

In the morning, Guadalupe wakes up and sets off to find food at a nearby stream. She tells Maria to stay with Margerita and keep her warm.



Grass or flower motif by riverbed
Chapter Three Title: Gathering Strength
Summary Tile Progression
When Guadalupe returns, she finds Margerita tied to a tree, crying.Maria is gone and Margerita is tied to a tree. Before Maria left, she told Margerita that their mother abandoned them.Guadalupe cooks their small breakfast and they set off to find Maria.

While on the search for Maria, they stop by the store and pick up some supplies. They finally find Maria at school, a place she would usually want to avoid at all costs.

U pattern (no. 7) or triangle pattern
Chapter B Title: Most Days
Summary Tile Progression
Poetic Interlude 2The desert is left to endure a life of constantly being used and overused. Her children (the plants) are her only love, and she realizes that she must endure for them, knowing that she is better than anything or anyone at finding value out of nothing. Saltillo Tile- antique wash- slightly more colorful, textured dimples
Chapter Four Title: The Hand-Mirror
Summary Tile Progression
Guadalupe decides to sell her long hair because they will need money for survival.Cutting her hair brings up all sorts of memories and feelings- memories of her first love, her husband, her father and her mother. Guadalupe acknowledges that the money she gets from selling her hair is not quite worth it, but necessary at the moment. 1
Chapter C Title: With Little Hope for Change
Summary Tile Progression
Poetic Interlude 3The desert is enslaved in an endless cycle, like a tradition, but much harsher and harder to keep. 



Saltillo tile- natural brown color with leaf prints
Chapter Five Title: Bullet Holes
Summary Tile Progression
The story jumps back to Bertha at her grandmother’s house.Guadalupe spies on the ranch, watching Bertha do a long list of hard chores.While hiding in the barn, Guadalupe’s father suspects Guadalupe of being there and he gives her some pointed advice.

Guadalupe decides that the best time to get Bertha back is when she is off to get water at the well.

The following day, she disguises herself and hires a taxi in town. She musters up enough courage to run and swoop Bertha up. Bertha is confused and scared and starts hitting and biting Guadalupe.

The family inside the house hear the noise and chase after Guadalupe with their shotguns. They fire several shots at the taxicab.

To pay the damages, Guadalupe offers him her wedding ring as payment.

No 11 circles
Chapter Six Title: Post-Traumatic Desert Wandering
Summary Tile Progression
After her rescue, Bertha refuses to eat or talk to anyone.Bertha also refuses to go anywhere until her family fixes their hair and takes a bath.Guadalupe muses about how much Bertha is just like her mother. She acknowledges that it will be good to have her mother’s voice with her on this crazy fugitive journey. Out of order triangle pattern
Chapter D Title: Deep Pools of Water
Summary Tile Progression
Poetic Interlude 4Notwithstanding her pain, the desert has a mystical power to sustain all life. Saltillo tile- soft brown with flower imprints
Chapter Seven and 7.2 Title: The Healing Hands of the Puppet-Master
Summary Tile Progression
Margerita is on the verge of heat stroke, and she is fading fast.Guadalupe finds an abandoned well outside a little town, the water looks fresh, but she has no way of getting water out of it.Out of nowhere, a strange woman appears and offers Guadalupe the use of her bucket.

The woman holds Margerita while Guadalupe attaches the bucket and draws up some water. She chants while rocking Margerita in her arms while dropping some medicine in he dry mouth. The drops seem to instantly make her feel better.

The woman, who goes by the name Andalucía, tells Guadalupe to gather all her children and come to her shop that night.

Guadalupe and her children go to Andalucía’s shop that night and they are greeted by an eclectic space filled with strange but beautiful puppets, and a mixture of exotic pets.

They stay the night there, under Andalucía’s care.

In the morning, Guadalupe wakes up to Andalucía washing her hair. She notices that her children appear different, looking much more like Andalucía than herself. She also notices that Andalucía has bleached her hair. Guadalupe has fears that perhaps Andalucía can’t be trusted, but also feels indebted to her for the help she has already given. Guadalupe decides that, for the time being, it is best that she stays with Andalucía to pay off the debt she feels she has for her kindness unless the situation changes.

No 10
Chapter Eight Title: Cut String
Summary Tile Progression
Guadalupe and her daughters are still in disguise, but she is tense that any day someone will walk into the shop and take her and her family away.One day Guadalupe’s sister walks through the door. Instinctively, Andalucía realizes who she is and asks Guadalupe (who she calls Marci) to go to the back and do inventory.Guadalupe’s sister finds a doll sitting on a shelf that is constructed the same way she remembers making dolls as a child. She inquires about it. Her sister seems to know that Guadalupe is the woman hiding in the back room. She tells Andalucía that she doesn’t have any money to buy anything today, but she will be back tomorrow with her mother. Before she leaves, she yells out to Guadalupe that her brothers bullets may have missed, but when their mother is angry she never misses.




Coyote 15
Chapter E for Epilogue Title: She Rises Up
Summary Tile Progression
Poetic Interlude 5Carried by the whims of the wind, the desert is lifted from town to town. Burnished Mica red tile with shiny flecks
Postscript No title
An all black panel.Written in black in the middle of the page:When you get there tell them you are my daughter and give them this.

Lose it and they won’t help you.

Black stained mica.



The following are general outlines/summaries of Books II-VI.

Book II- Guadalupe: Wind Through the Willows

Book II picks up where book I leaves off. Guadalupe and her daughters leave Andalucía and the village by the bridge. Guadalupe settles on making her way to El Paso, TX, far enough away from anyone that might recognize her and any law enforcement looking for her.

Andalucía promises that her friend in El Paso, TX will help her, but Guadalupe must take her an object that Andalucía wraps in red fabric. Andalucía makes Guadalupe promise that she will not unwrap the object and that she will do everything in her power to protect it. She tells Guadalupe that her friend will not help her unless she can show her the object when she gets there.

Much of the book takes place in the desert and the small towns Guadalupe makes her way through on her way to El Paso. Several flashbacks drive the psychological narrative. Guadalupe remembers the time when she was washing clothes with her aunt by the river and puts a snake in her blouse, but this time remembers different details that make her almost change her mind and return home.

At one point, Guadalupe haps upon another small village. It’s getting colder at night and she decides to sneak into a nearby barn and spend the night in there among the warmth of the animals. She has a series of dreams, the first about meeting her teenage lover in her parent’s barn. The barn smells remind her of being whipped by her mother. When she was younger, she had gotten used to stuffing her shirt full of straw before the whipping to ease the pain. She distinctly remembers her mother crying while whipping her. She acknowledges that her mother loved her, but cant understand how she could do the things she did to her in the name of love.

Guadalupe also remembers a time when she was little and she spent the summer with her cousins. They spent all night lighting her brother’s farts on fire until he woke up because his pants caught on fire.

In the morning Guadalupe is woken up by an angry rancher that finds them asleep in his haystack. He chases them out of his barn with a cattle-whip.

Guadalupe and her daughters are stuck roaming the desert again, but it’s a different experience in the cold. She is guided by the sun and an odd sense that the wind is carrying them. Guadalupe is curious what is in the bag Andalucía gave her but can’t bring herself to open it.

The children ask about their father, and she is overwhelmed with a sense of guilt for dragging her children into this experience. She remembers some of the good times spent with her husband. These memories contrast the present moment being without food and water, living off of nopals.

It is evident that they are making their way closer to El Paso when they stop at a nearby village. They visit the church of Guadalupe because Guadalupe was told that visiting a church in a new city gives you good luck, especially one with your namesake. Guadalupe spends some time talking to the priest after confession and he lets them spend a couple of nights in the church basement to shelter from a freeze rolling in.


Book III- Guadalupe: Borders of Water

In the church basement, Guadalupe can’t sleep. Staring up at the ceiling, she remembers the night of her wedding. The wedding was an arrangement between two families. Both her and the man she married were forced into a business agreement made before either was born. The problem is, at the time of their wedding, they had already fallen in love with other people. They spent the whole night of their wedding drinking champagne and staring up at the ceiling of the bedroom. It was the closest she ever felt to her husband because they were in the same situation. She thinks about how things just got progressively worse between them because they both could not forget their true loves. He turned to drinking and violence and she never learned to accept the situation and was set on trying to change it.

These memories of her husband contrast the fond memories of her lover. She remembers the letters they wrote to each other and exchanged during their secret meetings. Guadalupe recalls the night her husband found the letters and burnt them, but she had read them so many times, she could never forget what they said.

The freezing weather lifts and Guadalupe and her daughters are on the move again. They keep heading west even though the wind is telling them to head back. The air is cold, chapping their faces, but seeing the lights of a large city in the distance gives Guadalupe the energy to keep moving.

That night, they fall asleep in a cave. Guadalupe is too tired to make a fire and too tired to check the space for animals or spiders. In the morning, she wakes up entangled in a mess or rattlesnakes. Holding in a scream to not wake her daughters, her face floods with tears. Guadalupe is flooded with a bunch of emotions. Content with dying, Guadalupe reaches into her pocket and pulls out the mysterious object Andalucía gave her and she angrily throws the mysterious object out of the cave. Instead of attacking her, the snakes follow it out of the cave. When Guadalupe regains her composure she wakes her daughters up and they head out. She looks for the object outside the cave, but it’s gone.

They make their way to the nearby riverbed. She crosses the river back and forth three times, each time with one of her children on her back. She thinks about losing the object and the snakes, thinking they must be bad omens that she is bound to fail, but still decides to try and find Andalucía’s friend and persuade her to help.

She tracks down Andalucía’s friend and tells her all about her journey. The friend sits quietly and listens. She finally speaks and explains that the object was just a grain of rice. The object is meaningless on its own, but is meant to give the person faith and purpose on their journey. She offers Guadalupe her help and lets her stay in a spare room at the back of her house.

The book ends with an expose of what Guadalupe’s life is like in El Paso. Guadalupe finds out that local authorities have been notified about her missing and that she is wanted for theft and kidnapping. She sells their old clothes and dresses up in a disguise. To make a living, she wakes up early in the morning to make tortillas and sells them to various restaurants around town. She ties her children to the kitchen table to keep them inside until she gets home. The children aren’t aloud to play outside and they use menudo bones as toys. Eventually, she lets her children go to school so that she can have time to pick up other odd jobs cleaning and cooking, but she sends her daughters to school disguised as boys.

At the end, Guadalupe decides that the disguises are ruining her family’s happiness and could end up confusing her children as they get older. Guadalupe secures travel to Beard, NM. Guadalupe is hoping she can have a clean start there.


Book IV- Guadalupe: Wildfire

In Beard, NM, Guadalupe makes a good living, and her family is finally on their feet. They have a sense of normalcy and the girls seem happy.

Maria goes missing one day after church. Guadalupe is angry because she thinks Maria is hiding from her, but when she is missing for days, Guadalupe is an emotional mess. She turns to Senor Caraveo for help and emotional support. Guadalupe slowly falls in love with Caraveo while he helps her search for Maria.

Months pass and Maria is still missing. Guadalupe still hasn’t lost hope but everyone else has, even her daughters. Her friends encourage her to celebrate the happiness she has found with Caraveo.

One day during confession, Guadalupe haps upon a clue she can’t ignore. The priest makes it seem like he has talked to Maria recently. She asks for clarification and the priest quickly tries to cover it up.

Guadalupe starts snooping around the church at night, investigating strange noises and secretive movements from inside. She convinces a group of people to help her devise a plan to break into the church and search for her daughter. They find her tied up in a secret room.

Maria refuses to talk for days, but finally she breaks down and insinuates that the priest had been keeping her locked up. At first she was forced to do things for him, like draw his bath and clean his space. She indicates that after a while, she was forced to do things to him.

Guadalupe is disgusted and devastated. Caraveo offers to get some men together and make him pay.

Instead, she makes a personal visit to the priest. In the course of her conversation she tells the priest that God will make him suffer worse than any man or law on earth will, and she takes comfort in that.

The following morning, Guadalupe and Caraveo pack up their lives and their children.

The book ends with Guadalupe and Caraveo’s marriage at the justice of the peace and images of the newly united family setting up their new home in a new city.


Book V- Guadalupe: Cooling Embers

It has been five years since the events in book IV. The family lives in El Paso, TX. The book opens with Caraveo on his deathbed.

A lot has changed. As mother of her children and Caraveo’s, Guadalupe runs her family like the only example she had ever known, rough and hard like her mother. She can see her mother in herself but feels helpless in stopping it.

Throughout the course of the book, the reader finds out that Maria is in love with her stepbrother, even though she tries very hard to hide it. Her stepbrother seems to notice, and he takes advantage of it in subtle ways.

Bertha has a boyfriend, a good-mannered boy that lives across the border in Juarez.

Margie has taken an interest in medicine and is working an internship at the hospital in Juarez. She is very private about her personal life.

After Caraveo dies, Guadalupe’s life seems to spiral out of control. One night Bertha’s boyfriend visits and asks permission to take her out to a movie. They leave and they don’t come back that night. Guadalupe finds out that they ran away together to Chihuahua and got married. Guadalupe contacts authorities in Chihuahua and has him thrown in jail for three days. Bertha bails him out and the two start their lives together in Chihuahua.

A while afterwards, Guadalupe is working at a fair in Juarez where she runs into her long lost love. The meeting is awkward and brief, but distracts Guadalupe in the same way meetings with him used to when she was a child. Seeing him brightens up her day.

That night Guadalupe meets her lover in a dream. They walk the desert hand in hand like they used to, and share all of their happiest moments from their individual lives. The dream ends before they kiss.

In the morning, Guadalupe is woken up by her daughter Margie who seems distracted and sad. These emotions contrast Guadalupe’s. Margie had spent all night at the hospital dealing with patients from a nearby railroad accident. Margie has some news for Guadalupe, but doesn’t quite know how to tell her. Turns out Margie had identified a body that night, no other than Guadalupe’s long lost love. This devastates Guadalupe

Toward the end of the book, Maria and her stepbrother, Socorro Caraveo, get married. Maria marries him out of love, but Guadalupe has a strange feeling that he is only marrying Maria to get back at her for being a tough stepmother.

Guadalupe has reached her breaking point. She is lonely and heartbroken. Margie is the only one of her children still living with her, and she feels so far away from everyone. Margie tries to talk to her, but Guadalupe seems distant.

That night, Margie scavenges through the pantry to make dinner but only finds a can of tomato sauce and a bag of rice. She cooks the rice and serves her mom a plate. Guadalupe stirs her spoon in the plate for a while, noticing that there is a single grain of rice that refuses to lie down. She stirs and stirs but it won’t lay flat. Margie puts her hand on Guadalupe’s shoulder and finally tells her, “All we can do is keep moving.”


Book VI- Guadalupe: Splitting Roots

In this book, the reader finds out that Margie has finished nursing school notwithstanding the fact that Guadalupe strongly believes that there is no place for a young lady in education and her place is at home serving a family.

Margie moves out of her mother’s house when she Marries Morgan. It is a bittersweet moment for Guadalupe for many reasons. She is happy that Margie is starting a family, but is upset because Morgan is black.

Guadalupe feels that there is nothing left for her in the United States, so she decides to pack up her life and move to Cuatemoc where she opens a clothing shop and a restaurant. She makes frequent trips back and forth to El Paso where she buys used clothes by the pound, washes it and irons it and sells it as new in her shop. On her trips back, she stays with her daughter.

During one visit, Guadalupe is introduced to her newest grandchild, except Margie did not give birth to him. He was left at Margie’s doorstep and she decided that she would raise him. He is a sickly child and Guadalupe is afraid he will not survive long. Non-the-less, she is impressed with her daughter’s compassion. She is worried however, that she might be favoring this baby at the expense of her own daughter.

On her journey back to Cuatemoc, a man breaks into her camp and tries to rape her. She reaches around and finds a railroad spike lying around on the ground and stabs the man in the neck. She leaves him where he lay, pants down around his ankles, bleeding out.

Several episodes in this book look into the lives of Maria and Bertha who are both raising children of their own. She is happy for them, and content with the fact that her strained relationships with her daughters seem to be mending.


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