Thirteen-year-old Esperanza has led a comfortable and sheltered life on her father’s ranch in Mexico. Her family has money and land. Esperanza has everything she could want, from servants to wait on her to her parents’ love. After tragedy strikes, however, the family is uprooted and must move to America, right around the time of the Great Depression. Esperanza’s whole life changes, and she must find a way to start over.
I found this book in the children’s section of B&N a few months back when I was browsing. It looked really good. Immigration, particularly from Mexico, is obviously a very big issue where I’m from, being so close to the border here. While the book is set 80 years ago, many of the issues it brought up are similar to ones we have today. It’s a very good book for kids to read to learn both about history and current affairs. I like the duality of it.
I’m not going to say that this book was completely satisfying, issues-wise, from an adult point of view. I’ve read many beautiful adult books on immigration, poverty, striking, migrant workers, and more, and Esperanza Rising can’t really compare to the depths that those books have taken me. From a child’s point of view, however, this book is excellent. It presents enough of the issue to get them to start thinking, without laying a bias on any side of each argument. It has hope as well as sorrow, something many adult books on this subject lack. It’s also got a strong enough plot to keep a kid interested even if the issues don’t captivate them. I’m glad to have read Esperanza Rising and I’ve already passed it down to my boys.