Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Review: Malin Alegria, Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico

NY: Simon and Shuster Books for Young Readers, ,2007. 0689878117

Michael Sedano

Malin Alegria’s second novel deserves a wider audience than the publisher’s Books for Young Readers series might suggest. I think kids are going to love the story of a US teen plucked out of her life and deposited in the heart of a Baja California colonia. I know one grandfather who enjoyed it, too. Who wouldn’t? Alegria puts together an arresting tale mixing callow youth and cultural isolation with a rich helping of irony.

Take a spoiled high school senior girl who’s out for a wild time, have her lie her way to a wild weekend on the beach in Rosarito, BC Mexico, her eye on Mr. Hot. Make the girl the assimilated daughter of protective Mexican parents to gauge the enormous gap between Sofi’s innocent expectations of sex and her first experience with a groping boy.
It may be a subtle pro-abstinence message when Sofi learns a hard lesson about sex but holds on to her stunned virginity. Reeling from confusion after Nick whispers in her ear that he’d told his pals “I’d tap dat hot Latin ass by Monday”, Sofi wants only to go home. Then her real trouble begins.

Sofi can’t cross the border. The border guard runs her papers, calls Sofi “illegal” and denies her entry to the United States.

Other than lying to her parents about the weekend journey, Sofi’s greatest problem was her parental decision she would live at home for her freshman year at UCLA. Now the child who can’t roll her “r’s” in Spanish II, finds herself alone in Tijuana.

The journey to her aunt and uncle’s house adds to her nightmares. Eventually, Sofi lands among family. Another nightmare.

Then Mexico gets into Sofi’s mind. Maybe that’s a stereotypic way to explain the warmth that grows in Sofi’s perspectives on her life. Or maybe it’s sex. In addition to growing to love her family and the Mexicans she comes into contact with, Sofi finds Andres. Absent the febrile fantasies Sofi had held of ass tapping Nick, Sofi learns to take Andres at face value and discovers love in a good, clean way.

Except Andres is way too old for the high school kid, but that’s the grandfather in me speaking. Put aside that ageist prejudice and enjoy the story.

Alegria says she’s based the novel on the true story of two Santa Paula women who, like Sofi in the novel, “voluntarily deported” themselves through ignorance of immigration law or, in Sofi’s case, her parents’ concealment of her status. Ultimately, the title is ironic; Sofi finds herself in Mexico, or maybe she loses her old self. Sounds like the outline of a third novel, que no, Sofi hits UCLA toda nationalist, and speaking Spanish like a Rosarito native . . . .

Late arriving information from Manuel Paul Lopez:

Event: Small Press Fair at The Church in Ocean Park

Date: May 28, Memorial Day

Time: 10:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Description: RATTLE (http://www.rattle.com) will join a dozen other local presses in presenting a day of literature. We'll have a table with flyers, postcards, and copies of the new summer issue. Stop by at any time in the day to meet the editors. At 5 p.m. we'll be hosting a short reading of RATTLE contributors. The lineup so far (plus possible surprise guests):

Michelle Bitting
Dale Griffiths Stamos
Gabrielle Mittelbach
Michelle Margolis
Manuel Paul Lopez
Peggy Aylsworth

Details from the organizer: The Church In Ocean Park Second Annual Small Press Festival & Convention, a day of readings, talks, seminars, displays and sales; last year's participants included Cahuenga Press, Sybaritic Press, Solo Press, and Lummox Press, along with many other local and regional small presses, several of whom are already committed to this year's bash; following the keynote opening address, each publisher is encouraged to give a short talk, introductory to their reading segment, on their history, philosophy, and vision. The Church In Ocean Park, corner of Hill Street and 2nd Street, Santa Monica, donation, wheelchair accessible, refreshments, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 (contact: Fred Whitlock, 310/828-3951, fredheart@juno.com; small parking lot on the north side of the street between 2nd & 3rd Streets; parking in the beach lots, quarter-block west of Main Street, $1.00/hour to ten hours, free parking from 4th Street east)

Contact: Fred Whitlock
Phone: 310-828-3951
Location: The Church in Ocean Park
Address: 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Blogistas! Please see the Oct 18, 2011 NPR story on Malin Alegria. She is working on a new teen book series for Scholastic Books, titled Border Town.

Thanks for keeping the reviews coming.