Archive for the 'Multicultural Fiction' Category

Red Glass by Laura Resau

Genre:  Multicultural Fiction

# of Pages: 275

RAC Book:  Yes

2011 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Sophie lives with her mother and stepfather and is known to be cautious.  Her family is surprised one night by a phone call from a local hospital.  The hospital had a small boy whose parents were killed crossing the border into the U.S.  The boy had Sophie’s stepdad’s business card in his pocket.  Although, they have no idea why the boy had the business card they felt it was up to them to take the boy home and care for him until they could find his extended family.  Pablo is slow to interact with the family, but eventually tells them his name.  They are able to contact his grandmother and tell her they will bring Pablo to visit over summer break.  Sophie knows that if Pablo chooses to stay in Mexico they will let him, but she does not want to lose her new found brother.  Sophie, her Aunt, her aunt’s boyfriend, and his son all accompany Pablo into Mexico to find his family, but along the way Sophie finds much more than that.

This story is a wealth of knowledge about life in Mexico and Central America. The characters are all true to their beliefs and find ways to help Sophie find her way in the world.  Sophie is a complex character who must face several hard truths in the story, but never fails to rise to the challenge.  Pablo reminds the reader of the innocent children who live in Mexico and South America and struggle due to the pressures of modern day economies and technology.  The book celebrates the life and customs of those who refuse to adapt to 21st century ways.  The story raises questions about how homogenized we have become as a global society yet at the same time how we ignore how people struggle in developing countries.  A very good read.

Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 228 p.

RAC Book: Yes

Jared Finch and his family have agreed to take in a refugee family from Africa that their church is sponsoring. Jared is less than thrilled with the idea of sharing his room, his house, and his school with total strangers. The arrangement was made at the last minute when the planned apartment fell through. When the family arrives they seem distracted and afraid of everything as if something is chasing them. Jared also starts to notice that they do not act as a family. They hardly speak to each other and no one seems that concerned that the young daughter, Alake, has yet to speak or show any emotion about anything. Despite all of his misgivings, Jared begins to feel compassion and love for this family as his family helps them adjust to life in America. His concerns are not unfounded, however, and a dark secret is about to expose them all to terrible danger.

This book discusses what life is like in Africa including child armies, cruel treatment, and blood diamonds. The Finches, like many American families, are oblivious to the fact that people have to live in conditions like this. They are surprised that this African family has never seen a grocery store before and therefore cannot even fathom losing family members to preventable diseases and being forced to do things they would never do otherwise simply because a gun is pointed at their heads. This story discusses real issues that are going on in the world and would be a great read for any person. In addition to being informative, it is compelling and interesting all the way through. Highly recommended.

Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico by Malin Alegria

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Multicultural

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 276 p.

RAC Book: yes

Sofi Mendoza was born in Mexico, but moved with her parents to the U.S. when she was three. She can’t speak Spanish and knows very little about Mexican culture. Her parents are okay that she is “American” because they came to the U.S. to get her better opportunities. Despite the fact that her parents denied her permission to go to a party in Tijuana, Sofi decides to go anyway because she wants to hang out with a boy. Things do not go as planned and on the way back into California Sofi is told her green card is fake and she must stay in Mexico.

Luckily, Sofi has an aunt nearby, but she finds life in Mexico very difficult and different from what she’s used to. There is limited electricity and running water, little access to phone and internet, and bugs everywhere. As Sofi begins to realize how serious her situation is she is forced to learn more about her Mexican heritage and family.

This story touches on many timely issues such as citizenship and illegal immigrants. Sofi behaved as a typical American teen in many ways, but was shocked to see the poverty in Mexico and realized how much she takes for granted. Sofi’s story forces the reader to think about what it would be like to be in the situation many Mexicans face, which is the choice between poverty and ill-education or trying to make it in a country that does not want you. This story was entertaining as well as informative about this topic, despite the fact that Sofi often gets very lucky at getting out of tough or even dangerous situations, and many readers will come to care about Sofi and her family. A good read.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Age Level: 14 and up

# of Pages: 230

RAC Book: Yes

Junior is a young teen ready to begin high school on the reservation on which he and his family live. Junior was born with several health problems and had to have surgery on his brain at only six months old. Despite that he is incredibly smart, if not maybe a little skinny and dorky. His best friend is the town bully and he often protects Junior from getting beat up everyday. On the reservation there is a lot of alcoholism and poverty and he is always getting picked on by those around him.

After getting suspended by accidentally hitting a teacher with an old text book, he decides to commute the 22 miles to the next town in order to go to a better high school. He wants to go somewhere where the teachers are qualified and the text books are not the same ones his parents used when they were in school. By choosing to leave the reservation for school others on the reservation treat him like a traitor, especially his best friend who now hates him. When he gets to the new school he finds they completely ignore him, which is worse than getting picked on.

This humorous story follows a young boy who sees no opportunities around him and tries to go searching for some. He is courageous and tough as he tries to navigate these two worlds. His accounts of daily events are presented through his comics, which are very inciteful and funny. This story will amuse students while also shedding some light on racism and the true conditions of life on the reservation.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  360

RAC Book:  Yes

Amal, an Australian-Palestinian girl living in Melbourne, decides to “go full time” and wear her hijab, the Muslim head scarf, at all times.  This is a very big decision for Amal because post 9/11 there are a lot of mixed feelings about Muslims all around the world.  Amal decides that she wants to show her devotion to her religion by wearing her head scarf at all times knowing how difficult it will be.  For example, her parents are concerned about how Amal will feel if she gets any negative attention cast toward her.  Her prep school principal has trouble with it and doesn’t want to alter the strict dress code.  The students at her school are also confused the first time they see Amal wearing her head scarf, but once they feel comfortable enough to ask questions they come to understand why she wants to wear it.

All of Amal’s friends are dealing with different cultural and societal pressures at the same time she is coping with this big change.  Soon Amal comes to see that her life is not nearly as difficult as some since her parents are always so supportive and never force her to do anything she doesn’t want to.  The supporting characters are all interesting and reflect different viewpoints at this time of growing diversity.  Although this might be a tough sell to teens I think those who do read it will gain a lot of knowledge about tolerance and understanding in this complex time we live in. 

La Linea by Ann Jaramillo

Genre:  Multicultural literature

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  129

RAC Book:  Yes

Miguel lives in a small, poor town in Mexico with his grandmother and younger sister. His father and mother crossed the border into California years ago and have been struggling to get settled so that they could bring their other two children over.  On Miguel’s 15th birthday he is given a letter from his father saying it is time to come over.  On the day Miguel is set to leave, Elena, his sister, runs away because she can’t stand the idea of being left behind.  Her arrival messes up Miguel’s plans and they must create a new plan so that they can both cross the border together.

Many hardships await Miguel and Elena as they make their journey toward the border and there are many times when they feel like giving up.  Although the story is fast paced and told quickly, the idea of the length and hardship of the journey is brought across clearly to the reader.  Obviously, Mexican immigration is a big issue in today’s world and this story will help students to think about the issue from the side of the immigrants.  Reasons and motivations for coming to America are provided, as well as reasons why people want to stay in Mexico.

Once Upon a Quinceanera by Julia Alvarez

Genre:  Multicultural Literature/Realistic Fiction

Age Level:  14 and up

# of pages:  269

RAC Book:  Yes

Once Upon a Quinceanera follows the author, Julia Alvarez, as she explores the Latino tradition of the quinceanera, which is the celebration given to daughters on their 15th birthdays.  The story follows the specific quinceanera of Monica.  Although based on a real girl, her name was changed to Monica to protect her identity.  As Alvarez follows Monica’s big day she also discusses the tradition of quinceaneras, the growth of them in the U.S., and the impact they have on those girls who have or don’t have them.  There is a lot of discussion about the Latino culture here in the U.S. as well as the reasons behind each of the traditions such as the “last doll” and the significant change from flats to heels. 

Alvarez also explores her own life and how the pressures and expectations to follow in traditional Latina roles conflicted with her own desires such as college and becoming an author.  This book explores both sides of these parties:  the side that wants to celebrate a girl becoming a woman and the side that believes these parties are too expensive and overdone.  The explanations of how these parties have developed over the years was extensive and important for the story and is good for anyone not familiar with the tradition to know.  The quinceanera is only going to continue to grow in the U.S. and it’s important for non-Latinos to understand what it is Latinos are celebrating and respecting it for what it is, which is more than an elaborate party.

 



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