Guest Post by Laurel Corona, author of The Mapmaker's Daughter

Today Passages to the Past welcomes author Laurel Corona to the blog today! Laurel's latest release, The Mapmaker's Daughter, was published this past Tuesday and I am so excited to have her here with a guest post. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

The Ghosts of Granada

“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two....” You know the rest. But long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, 1492 was already one for the history books. In January the Caliphate of Granada, the last Muslim-held land in Iberia, fell to Ferdinand and Isabella’s army. In August the same two monarchs expelled all the Jews from Spain.

For centuries Muslims had ruled in what is today Spain and Portugal. Over time, Christian rulers picked away at Muslim lands, and by the late 1400s, only the tiny Caliphate of Granada, along the southern coast, was still in the way of Ferdinand and Isabella’s dream of making all of Spain a united, Christian country.

My new novel, THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER (Sourcebooks, March 2014) is set around the time of the fall of the caliphate, and though its focus is the Jews, I wanted to honor this great Muslim culture by bringing Granada into the story as well.

My main character, Amalia, is a multilingual Jewish woman who finds work as a tutor to the Caliph’s grandchildren and spends several years in Granada working at the Alhambra, an astonishing palace and fortress famous for its intricate architectural details and gardens enhanced by running water, fountains and pools. Spicing up the story is a love affair between Amalia and Jamil, a Muslim poet and court diplomat. About Jamil all I can say is that although I invented him, I really hope for the women of the time that there were men that hot to drool over!

In the Middles Ages, the Muslim world was in the vanguard of just about everything. While Europe prayed, Muslims investigated and experimented. Muslim rule in Iberia was characterized by scholarship in almost every field, proliferation of arts and culture, great advances in city planning and public services, and a greater degree of tolerance of religious differences than anywhere in Europe. Cities like Cordoba had street lights, sewers, public baths, libraries, and gardens. Everywhere there was light, color, sounds, scents and beautiful things to look at, causing one medieval visitor to Cordoba, a nun named Hroswitha, to remark that it was “the ornament of the world.”

Remembering her years in Muslim Spain, Amalia remarks that,“It was wonderful to be alive in Granada, and I can’t imagine how those who trudge through life with downcast eyes would not feel moved to raise their faces to the sky and live more fully under that glorious sun.”

The Muslim world of tolerance, education, innovation, and love of beauty was not a fairyland. Their times were as riddled with human frailties and vices as any other. Still, they strived to make life as beautiful, satisfying, and luscious as human effort and imagination can achieve.

Amalia explains the hold of Granada on her memories thus:

“If I were standing at this moment in an orchard in bloom, the fragrance could not compete with what comes to me by shutting my eyes and remembering the gardens of the Alhambra. Not only the city, but the magnificent mountains at its back and the fertile vega surrounding it, were so intoxicating that everyone there believed that Paradise hovered just out of view.”

Pick up a copy of THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER, and let it take you there.

About The Mapmaker's Daughter

Pub: March 4, 2014 | Sourcebooks Landmark| Paperback; 368p

A sweeping novel of 15th-century Spain explores the forgotten women of the Spanish Inquisition.

In 1492, Amalia Riba sits in an empty room, waiting for soldiers to take her away. A converso forced to hide her religion from the outside world, She is the last in a long line of Jewish mapmakers, whose services to the court were so valuable that their religion had been tolerated by Muslims and Christians alike.

But times have changed. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquer Granada, the last holdout of Muslim rule in Spain, they issue an order expelling all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity. As Amalia looks back on her eventful life, we witness history in the making—the bustling court of Henry the Navigator, great discoveries in science and art, the fall of Muslim Granada, the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. And we watch as Amalia decides whether to relinquish what’s left of her true self, or risk her life preserving it.

Exploring an under-published period in history, The Mapmaker’s Daughter is a sweeping saga of faith, family and identity that shows how the past shapes our map of life.
Praise for The Mapmaker's Daughter

“A close look at the great costs and greater rewards of being true to who you really are. … A pivotal period of history and inspiration” —Margaret George, NYT bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Sentences of startling, hard-won wisdom leap from the page and command our memories not to forget them.” —Susan Vreeland, NYT bestselling author of Luncheon of the Boating Party

"Amalia is the perfect character through which readers will experience these turbulent times ... Vividly detailed and beautifully written, this is a pleasure to read, a thoughtful, deeply engaging story of the power of faith to navigate history's rough terrain." – Booklist

"Well-researched, evocative, and a pleasure to read” —Mitchell James Kaplan, award-winning author of By Fire, By Water

About the Author

Laurel Corona is the author of three historical novels, including Finding Emilie (Gallery Books, 2011), which won the 2012 Theodore S. Geisel Award for Book of the Year, San Diego Book Awards. She has taught at San Diego State University, the University of California at San Diego, and San Diego City College, where she is a professor of English and Humanities.

Corona is a member of the Brandeis National Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Hadassah. She has written over a dozen nonfiction Young Adult books for school library programs, primarily on Jewish topics. She lives in San Diego. Website:

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