By Giana Quinterno, AmeriCorps member serving on the National Grid team with Blackstone Innovation School
What caught my attention was the cover; a girl with flowing, dark brown hair, roses in hand and appearing to float over vineyards. Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, was a book I had heard of before, but never read. Being 22 years old and out of college, I cannot say I am not the most up to date on young-adult books, but when I came across this book in the library, I had to pick it up and learn more.
After I read the summary and did some research, the lyrical texts and figurative language drew me in. “Aguantate tantito y la fruta caerá en tu mano…wait a little while and the fruit will fall into your hand.” I came across this line in the first chapter, and I felt it had a valuable message of patience and perseverance. This message is one that is beneficial to many people and students, conveying the necessity to have patience and persevere despite struggles. The story takes place in 1930s Mexico and explores a young girl’s journey and immigration to California during the Great Depression. After having to migrate to California after a tragic event in her family, Esperanza loses everything and seeks freedom in a new place. The story then follows Esperanza as she struggles to discover herself as she finds a place and community in California.
Ryan, the author, incorporates Spanish text that creates a beautiful rhythm and tone to the reading. The Spanish and English combination text was enjoyable, not only exposing me to reading in Spanish, but would give opportunity to my students to teach and translate the text to me. Ryan, does an amazing job poetically conveying real world events, Mexican customs, Abuelita’s wisdom and the struggles Esperanza must overcome. As the story unfolds, Ryan fluidly juxtaposes world events with Esperanza’s family desire to survive.
Though I’ve yet to finish the book, I was so moved by it’s messages and poetic language that I decided to share it with one of my 4th grade reading groups. AJ* and Isabella* are two young ladies of color in one of my reading groups, and I felt this book was a great text for us to read and explore together as they are developing their identities. I could not keep this beautiful literary work to myself, but needed to share it with my students. When I brought it to class and introduced it to AJ and Isabella, they were excited and motivated. Now, we are diving in and joined Esperanza on her journey to a new life of rediscovering herself and her new community.
*name changed to protect student privacy