Suzanne's Reviews > Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
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Aug 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: children-young-adult-lit
Read in August, 2012

A lovely story that I definitely recommend for grades 5-8, give or take.

I didn't care for Esperanza much as a character, which worried me a bit during the first half of the book. I worried that this would be a typical spoiled-brat-gets-humbled-coming-of-age tale. Esperanza does start out as a spoiled brat and does end up as something different, but her personal story becomes less and less the focal point of a larger story - this is both nice for the reader and representative of Esperanza's growth. Her sense of self-importance deflates, but then reforms with an improved awareness of her connectedness to others. Esperanza's story becomes interesting because of its context - the historically accurate portrayal of the California agriculture industry during the Dust Bowl/Depression era, and the other characters (generally more likeable than Esperanza) who become important to her survival.

This could be a great read to supplement social studies instruction in civil rights movements. I, for one, did not realize that farm workers were organizing and striking for better conditions so long before Cesar Chavez came onto the scene. I also do not recall learning about the Deportation Act of 1929, which I now know forced hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans into "repatriation" to Mexico without due process - deporting not only Mexican workers who had entered the country illegally, but also those who entered legally, and even American citizens in no small numbers.

Make sure to read the Author's Note at the end. It helped to provide even more context and made me curious enough to do some light research on the setting of the story.
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