20646933Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Release Date: May 1, 2002
Publisher: Scholastic
Source: Digital Copy
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it. – Goodreads

Review:
This is the final book required for my literacy class and it was one of my favorites. Esperanza Ortega is a privileged girl on her father’s ranch. She has grown up with servants and nice clothes, horses and dolls, everything handed to her. Until her father is killed. Her uncles try to force Esperanza’s mother into some things, so they flee for California, where the land of opportunity awaits. Of course, it’s not exactly what it seems either. Esperanza is privileged, like I said, and spoiled and prejudiced. She treats “peasants” with some scorn, she has never bathed herself without the help of a female servant, and she is startled when one of the field worker’s sons points out that the lighter skinned Mexicans are top tier and the rest work. She doesn’t seem to understand that her family is fleeing to California to work, not continue the life they had in Mexico. She’s bratty, but it’s almost endearing, because you know what’s coming next, and you know it will change her.

Like all the books I had to read for this class, Esperanza Rising is a coming-of-age tale. Esperanza has to leave her old life behind and become someone else, which isn’t easy when other girls call you “Cinderella” and you don’t even know how to sweep a platform. Esperanza also has to try to understand foreign terms like “strikes” and is presented with the other side of the Mexican civil war, the side of those who tried to bring men like her father down. It’s a lot of change happening at once for a thirteen-year-old girl, and I felt enormously sorry for her. But she does rise. Oh, does she rise.

When her mother is sick, Esperanza takes to the fields. She becomes one of the best workers. She transforms. She becomes a real person. She endures hardships, and loss, and sadness. She grows and doesn’t hold onto any grudge or hate. This story was inspiring and eye-opening. One of the best stories I’ve read all year.