Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Chicano Lit - My Diary from Here to There

My Diary from Here to There/Mi Diario De Aqui Hasta Alla (Pura Belpre Honor Book Narrative (Awards)) (Hardcover)

by Amada Irma Perez, Maya Christina Gonzalez (Illustrator)

I was wandering the stacks today at the Chula Vista South Library, which has a lovely collection and came across this book. I picked it up, noticed that Children's Book Press was the publisher and thought to myself, "This is going to be good." It was better than good, it's a great book and I fell in love with it.

The book tells the story of Amada, a young girl living in Juarez, Mexico who has just found out that her family is going to be making a big move to the United States. Her diary chronicles her feelings and fears, her hopes and dreams. She is worried to be leaving to a strange new land and leaving behind all that she loves in Mexico. The author is a third grade teacher and the book is based on her own move as a youngster. There is some mighty fine and poetic writing in this little book. As Amada writes about the tortilla shop in her Juarez neighborhood, the line "hands blurring like hummingbirds wings" describing the women making tortillas by hand struck me to the core with it's simple beauty. This is poetry. The diary is bilingual and the language in Spanish is just, if not more poetic and lovely.

My Diary From Here to There is a thoughtful and moving account of a family making a big transition. So many of us either remember such a crossing or have family members that have done the same, taking risks to make a new life here. Amada writes of the challenges and of painful separation from her father who has gone ahead to the fields of Delano, California. He writes a brief letter home mentioning a young Cesar Chavez beginning his lifelong fight for the migrant workers. There are observations in this book that make you stop and think. Take, for example, "two countries looking exactly the same on both sides of the border with giant saguaros pointing up at the pink-orange sky and enormous clouds." Makes you think, no? How different are we really and why is this border even an issue?

The illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez are gorgeous. The more I see of her artwork, the more I am struck by it's power and beauty. She has this way of capturing the very essence of the beauty that is the Mexican women - grace, strength, determination, warmth and most of all the love for familia that shines out of their eyes. Each illustration has a mural like quality and with each look, you find more and more to amaze at.

I would encourage anyone to buy this book - adults and children both will be enchanted and moved.

Until next week,

Gina MarySol Ruiz


Anonymous said...

Even though I don't read children's books this one sounds like one that needs to be on my to be read list. Great review.

msedano said...

i'll have to check this one out, too. i wonder, the title suggests she feels still una del otro lado, the "here" I suppose being Juarez, the "there" the journey's end somewhere in the EUA. by the end of the diary, has she settled into the new home place, has her perspective shifted as well, "here" meaning where she's settled in? Welcome to Califas,little girl.


Unknown said...

The first book by Amada is all about getting her own room in the US - it won the Tomas Rivera Award and the Americas Honor Award. Going to review that one next week. Think you will like it. Iliana, thank you so much for the compliment and for reading.

M. - read the book and you will find out. I'm not telling :)