Now that The Blind Eye, Marcia Fine’s prize-winning novel about Sephardic conversos fleeing from 15th-century Portugal, has found a publisher at AuthorHouse, the writer has discovered you can’t just quote song lyrics in a book willy-nilly without permission.
“Track down the singer and get the okay,” demanded her editor. Apparently publishers are more paranoid than doctors when it comes to being sued. So Fine (who, fine, full disclosure here, is my mother) has made phone calls, sent e-mails, faxed faxes and generally torn her hair out for the past year over trying to make contact with one Sarah Aroeste, whose song “A La Una” is excerpted in The Blind Eye.
Just when my mother was about to rewrite her whole darn book to accomodate taking out those unconsented lyrics, the phone rings and the caller ID flashes “Sarah Silverman.” Now why is that disturbed potty-mouthed girl from Comedy Central calling me? she wondered, and at the risk of hearing “I pooped” on the other end, answered the phone. Turns out it was the Sarah she was seeking, who’s adopted the more exotic stage name to reflect her family’s Spanish-Greek origins.
Aroeste’s music floats on funky, Latin-flavored jazz beats sung in Ladino, the fading language of the Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. She’s divine; listen here. She not only weaves a beautiful soundtrack, but performs a mitzvah by keeping the dying language of the Sephardic ancestors alive. Mom reports that Sarah Silverman/Aroeste apologized for not getting in touch sooner and admitted that the words to “A La Una” are so old that they’re considered part of the public domain, so no one needs permission to use them after all.
So this story has a happy ending not just for an author published her fourth novel, but for you and me, because now we all know who Sarah Aroeste is and can adore her. A good excuse to brush up on the ol’ espanol, sì?