Jemez Springs author nominated for top award

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Books > Nominees have won Pulitzer and Nobel Prizes

By Gina Velasquez

Leandro Thomas “Tom” Gonzales, of Jemez Springs, has been nominated for a national literary award, but remains humble, being it is his first novel.
Gonzales book, “Follow the Spinning Sun,” was nominated for the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, an award presented to a novel that makes a lasting contribution to excellence in world literature. The winner will be announced in June.
The lists of nominees also include persons who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. Out of the 152 books that are in the running, 47 of them are first novels.
Libraries around the world nominate books, then send them to Dublin, Ireland for voting. “The books have a high literary merit,” according to the IMPAC website.
“Follow the Spinning Sun” is a fictional novel, which explores why the Tyuoni tribe abandoned their homeland in what is now the Bandelier National Monument.
The wonder of living in such an extraordinary time and place will provoke interest in the age-old mystery of what really happened to the Anasazi.
Jopin, an 80-year-old elder desperate for an answer, embarks on a prayer quest that takes him on a chain of events that will unveil the fate of Tyuoni. Deer-tracker, his pre-teen grandson, and Knee-nose, a young spotted deer, help Jopin deal with Chief Salamander’s questionable actions and motives as the tribe journeys on a treacherous and intriguing odyssey.
Gonzales strives to demonstrate how a significant religious event could have influenced the people to abandon their majestic village, join the Great Migration, and follow the spinning sun to their new homeland. 
He got the idea for a novel while on one of many trips to Bandelier. He enjoyed taking relatives on guided tours.
“I used to go there all the time and was always fascinated by the dwellings and the real people that lived there once,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales created the art on the cover and the drawings at the beginning of each chapter. It is a technique, he said helps him with writer’s block.
“I can’t write unless I draw a picture first. It seems to work for me,” he said.
Gonzales worked and lived in Los Alamos for 35 years, during that time, he worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory in the management, physics and engineering fields. He retired to Jemez Springs in 2006.
The cover depicts a sun that is like a petroglyph, he saw once at Bandelier. The background image shows fire, to which Gonzales wants to convey a nuclear blast.
Being part Apache Native American, he continues to explore the dynamics of the elders in a tribe and the relationships with family and villagers to make the decision of completely leaving an area they live in.
“The dynamics of the decision is mind-boggling and very exciting to me,” he said. “What would it really take to leave your homeland?”
The fictional piece also explores alternative meanings for why the Anasazi left the area, such as religion, war and famine.
Gonzales said he had never done any writing before and is very proud and excited of his nomination. He continues to write and has a children’s book in the works.
He and his wife, Lucille remain in Jemez Springs. They have two adult children, Darrell and Erika, both of whom are graduates from Los Alamos High School.
The book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, neighborhood bookstores around the area and through publisher Sunstone Press.