I’ve reached the end of my Friday posts. Esperanza Rising marks the last of the content I wanted to save from my self-hosted site. I’ll now be posting only once a week again, as I’m almost finished writing Song 2 and I’d like to finish Song 3 before school ends.
Sometimes a book comes out that I really want to read, but for some reason or another I don’t get to it right away. It might get bumped down the tbr (to-be-read) list in favor of a more pressing review. Or the next book in a beloved series might come out that I gobble up right away. Pretty soon years have passed and I still haven’t read the book!
That’s what happened to Esperanza Rising. I’ve long heard what a wonderful book this is. I understood it portrayed some of the difficulties migrant workers faced in America early in the 20th Century. I knew it received all kinds of awards. And I’m familiar with Ms. Ryan’s beautiful writing style. This was a book I was certain I would enjoy. Well, I’ve finally read the book—thirteen years later!
So was it worth the wait? Definitely!
Esperanza Ortega is a young girl of privilege who suddenly loses everything when her father is killed and her two wicked uncles take possession of his property. She and her mother flee to America in hopes of a better life. Abuelita (grandmother), however, has been injured and must stay behind in Mexico. Abuelita sends Esperanza on her way with the beginnings of a crocheted blanket and the promise that they’ll be together again after the passing of many mountains and valleys.
In the migrant camps, Esperanza becomes fully aware of how far she’s fallen. She lives in tiny shack with many others. Her hands become rough and red. And her mother becomes deathly ill. She suffers the turmoil of workers’ strikes and the prejudice of the era. Yet through it all Esperanza learns and grows and keeps working on her blanket—ten stitches up, ten stitches down—a physical symbol of the life’s passing mountains and valleys.
And Esperanza suddenly realizes that Miguel, her long time friend and once her servant, is no longer on the opposite side of a social barrier. They are both poor. Together.
This is a remarkable story. It’s not an adrenaline rush or a nail-biter, just the amazing story of one child’s fortitude. And it’s written with the grace, beauty, and poetic metaphor of a master storyteller. It’s also based on the life of the author’s grandmother. One of my favorite books this year and highly, highly recommended.
(Now to read Holes, by Louis Sachar… Written two years before this one!)