04 January 2018

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Series: N/A
# of Pages: 224
Publication: October 31st, 2011
Source: Library Copy
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Contemporary
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Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother's battle with cancer in this young adult novel in verse. When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don't always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami's life. While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. As Lupita struggles to keep the family afloat, she takes refuge in the shade of a mesquite tree, where she escapes the chaos at home to write. Forced to face her limitations in the midst of overwhelming changes and losses, Lupita rediscovers her voice and finds healing in the power of words. Told with honest emotion in evocative free verse, Lupita's journey toward hope is captured in moments that are alternately warm and poignant. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about testing family bonds and the strength of a young woman navigating pain and hardship with surprising resilience.

This was a book that I selected for one of the categories of my young adult materials class. We were given the option of choosing a book that was either nominated or won the Pura Belpre medal. I read through the descriptions of quite a few books; however, for some reason this book stood out to me. And after it was all said and done I’m glad that I actually took the time to read this book. It was heart-wrenching. The oldest of eight children is forced to figure out life after her mom gets cancer. She not only becomes somewhat of an adult, but she also has to figure out how she wants to continue her life if her mother was to pass away.

One of the best aspects of this book was the fact that it included Spanish words and phrases. I recently wanted to learn Spanish because I’ve encountered customers who I haven’t been able to effectively communicate with because they speak Spanish. I don’t want that to happen anymore so I’ve been checking out books and dvds related to learning Spanish as a beginner. This book would incorporate Spanish words at random times which was actually fun and interesting. For those who are wondering there was a glossary with translations in the back. For the most part it didn’t inhibit or slow down my reading. It actually made me take the time to try to read the words in context before looking in the back for their meaning.

The plot of the book was predictable in some ways. By the time you understand the severity of her mother’s sickness, it’s clear to see what is going to happen in the end. However, that didn’t make the book any less enjoyable. Readers get the opportunity to see the main character grow and learn about herself. She uses writing and acting as a way to cope with everything that is happening in her life. I thought that was amazing considering that a lot of individuals, teens and adults alike, sometimes utilize negative things to cope with disappointing situations. The only drawback of the plot was that it left the reader wanting more. It was a quick read at only 224 pages and the entire text was written in verse. While reading certain aspects of Lupita’s life, I found myself wanting more than what I was given. I wanted to know more about her thoughts and feelings. If that occured I believe I would have rated the book higher. Nevertheless, I will say that I enjoyed it and it was a great insight to the experience of a Mexican family living in the United States.

If you’re looking for more books that would be classified as #ownvoices, I would definitely recommend this one. It has a lot to offer for such a small book.


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