In the early 80s, an infant named Roberto, the son of revolutionaries, is disappeared along with his mother by government forces after a violent raid in Honduras.
Fourteen years later, an American high school student named Nelson is contacted by a human rights organization. Growing up, Nelson sensed that his adoption was unusual, but this phone call changes everything he thought he knew about himself.
After a positive DNA test, Nelson/Roberto embarks on an epic adventure that takes him to the city streets, volcanic hilltops, and rural countryside of Central America. As he gets to know his biological family, he discovers a life taken from him and struggles to balance the demands of two distinct cultures.
Upon returning to his homeland of El Salvador, he is confronted with painful truths about his past and must find a way to let go of his childhood dreams about what it means to be a family so that he can learn to exist as both Nelson and Roberto.
My name is Nelson de Witt, but it’s also Roberto Coto. I am one of El Salvador’s Disappeared Children, kids who were separated from their families during the country’s 13-year-long civil war.
I am currently seeking representation for my auto-fiction novel, which is complete at 118,000-words. If you are a literary agent who is interested in taking a look at my project, please get in touch, and I would be happy to forward a sample of any length.
Since the 1950s, governments throughout Central and South America have abducted more than 100,000 people as a strategy of intimidation and control. While most are presumed dead, a small subset, almost entirely children, have survived and had their origins concealed.
As someone who was forcibly disappeared and had a family member who was disappeared, I am able to write about this phenomenon from a unique perspective. Not only do I understand the ambiguous grief that comes from having a loved one taken this way, but I’ve also had to wrestle with complex issues such as identity confusion, family separation, and cultural bifurcation that affect many Latinx, Central American, and other marginalized communities.
I believe what makes my story so powerful is that it exists at the interaction of two distinct cultures, allowing it to resonate with a wide range of people.
In addition to this book, I am working on a documentary film called Identifying Nelson/Buscando a Roberto. It centers around a week-long trip I took to El Salvador in 2011, where I got to connect with the other Disappeared Children, interview members of my birth family, and meet the country’s president.
My work has been featured in The Huffington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor, as well as several podcasts. I’ve spoken about my story at a number of high schools and colleges including Yale University, Wellesley College, and The University of Chicago.
After much consideration I’ve decided to pursue traditional publishing. This can be a lengthy process so it could be months or years before my book is released.
If you are interested is purchasing a copy when it is available you should sign up for my newsletter, and I will notify you when it is ready.
With my manuscript done, most of the hard work of writing and editing is behind me. However, now begins the potentially even harder work of getting my book into the world. Each year hundreds of thousands of books are published. Most of them languish in obscurity, only selling a handful of copies.
Please visit the Spread the Word page to see if there is something you can do to help me with this endeavor.