Middle-grade historical fiction. Main character is Esperanza- a girl who grew up on a wealthy ranch in Mexico, where she had the best of everything and lived in luxury. Then her father dies, her family is forced into an impossible situation by conniving relatives, and they have to flee the country in secret. They go north, to Southern California, where the family that were once their servants on the ranch, now help them obtain work harvesting crops in the fields. After the uncomfortable and frightening journey, Esperanza finds herself living in impoverished conditions, expected to work and learn skills she never had before (she doesn’t know how to hold a broom, wash clothes, cook meals, etc). Other kids in the workers’ camp make fun of her at first, but she does gain some friends as time goes on, and looses the edge of her pride. In their new place, the struggles are far from over- her mother falls sick, a boy she had befriended leaves for a different opportunity, and their jobs seem far from secure- strikers wanting better conditions threaten what little stability they have. Esperanza is surprised and humbled to learn that, as difficult as she thinks her new life is, there are other people even worse off.
I can readily see why this novel has won so many awards- it’s a story of growth amid hardship, a family sticking together to make a new beginning when they lost everything. There’s struggles for worker’s rights, outrage at racial injustice, and some beautiful, uplifting sayings. But it just- didn’t reach me. Maybe becaue I’m far beyond the target age group. Maybe because Esperanza’s character felt a bit flat to me. I saw what she did and said, but I never really got a sense of her as a person. Or maybe I just didn’t connect to her character, so failed to feel very deeply about what happened. The story did make me think of other immigrant stories I’ve read, and it also brought to mind The Grapes of Wrath.
Borrowed from my daughter.