So much fiction has strong female characters who do daring or smart things to survive, however, this realistic fiction is so strongly written. The lif...moreSo much fiction has strong female characters who do daring or smart things to survive, however, this realistic fiction is so strongly written. The life of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban was a life I knew was difficult, but I never really understood the degree of risk and danger women lived in every day. I imagine my 10 year old daughter making her way through the streets in disguise in order to provide food and shelter for our family, and I really don't think she could do it. The strength portrayed through Parvana represents a whole society of women who persevere to survive. What a moving statement about the world.
In The Breadwinner, 11-year old Parvana lives with her parents, older sister, younger sister and younger brother in the time of the Taliban. When her father is brought to prison, there is no one left to provide for the family, as women can not go out into the streets unescorted. There is no one to earn money or even to shop for food for the family. The family turns to Parvana to alter her appearance so that she resembles a boy and go out into the Marketplace to find work and buy what the family needs. Parvana needs courage and smarts to undergo this challenge. Her father used to sit on a blanket in the marketplace and read letters for people who could not read or write. Parvana begins her work taking her father’s place on the blanket in the Marketplace. She meets another girl who has taken on the role as Breadwinner for her family, and together they find alternate ways to make money and provide for their family. (less)
I read "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan which one the Pura Belpre Award in 2002. The story is about a 13 year old Esperanza who lives a privileged...moreI read "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan which one the Pura Belpre Award in 2002. The story is about a 13 year old Esperanza who lives a privileged life in Mexico on a grape ranch with her parents and servants. Esperanza's father is killed by bandits and her world suddenly changes. Their home is burned and Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee Mexico for America to work as laborers on a farm. The change is drastic for Esperanza and it takes awhile for her to understand that she is no longer a "princess", that she is now poor, and that she will have to work hard to live in the tiny cabin she shares with her mother and cousins.
"Esperanza Rising" is filled with cultural references and imagery throughout the book. The text contains many spanish words with translation following which immerses the reader in the language. The story takes place in 1930's Mexico following the Mexican Revolution. The descriptions of the Mexican people during that time reveals the discord among the classes. Then, as the family travels to California, the division of classes is still present, but with Esperanza's family on the poor side.
The family works as laborers on a company farm which produced produce. Each month brought a new fruit or vegetable for the laborers to make ready for selling. Life on these "camps" was vividly described and differences among company farms and non-company owned farms. Living conditions varied from camp to camp and the quality of the camp was measured by running water, hot or cold water, toilet accommodations, and shelters. Various camps held different cultured laborers: Japanese, Mexican, Okies from Oklahoma, and Filipinos. The historical aspect of this period in history was interesting. There was unrest among each cultural group individually and as a whole about wages and who will "get" the work. Laborers were always afraid of cheap labor coming in and taking their jobs because they would work for pennies a day. For the Mexican laborers, this meant massive sweeps called "voluntary repatriation" which sent all laborers back to Mexico if they weren't working.
There is so much detail paid to Mexican culture throughout this book - their cooking, dress, religious beliefs, importance of family, work ethic, and spirit. As with other Latino books I have read, "Esperanza Rising" gave me a look at a culture about which I had little knowledge, although so much of what was represented was familiar to me. This book provided a history of Mexican immigration and the hard lives those immigrants were willing to live for the possibility of a better future in America. (less)