Sara's Reviews > Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
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's review
Oct 01, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: 2009, historical-fiction, young-adult
Read in October, 2009

3.5 stars. This strikes me as the kind of book students would be forced to read in school, since it deals with historical events (farm workers during the Depression and themes of racism toward Mexican workers), but it's not the sort of book you would typically pick up and want to read and reread on your own accord. At least, I wouldn't reread this, although it was decent enough.

Esperanza is a rich 13 year old living a great life in Mexico. After bandits kill her father, Esperanza and her mom head to California with some of their former servants to work on a farm. I can imagine how difficult it must be to go from being fairly spoiled in Mexico to being a farm worker in the valley, having no money and being unfairly treated because of a dirty appearance and not being able to speak English, so I was sympathetic to Esperanza's plight, and it was interesting to read about how she adapted to the new circumstances and how difficult everything was. What a different world it must have been, back in the 1930's!

For students, this sort of book would certainly lead to a number of great discussions. I think it would be a good thing to read in a classroom and talk about the various themes in the book, giving insight about the times back then and the treatment of others because of their appearance or their heritage. However, although there are a number of themes in the book that could be discussed, I didn't find it quite as engrossing as it could have been. It's written very simply, making me unsure what age group it's targeting, and the themes touched upon were done lightly without continuing to delve into much detail. The book felt more like a means to raise awareness of these issues than actually telling the story of Esperanza.

Overall, an okay read, but it left me with more of a feeling for farm conditions in the 1930's than it did with a liking for the characters in the book. Definitely more of a "required reading" book than a "fun" novel.

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