Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Books by Jo Ann Hernandez

A dramatic novel for young adults about a teenage girl
forced to live with foster families

Jewel is shuttled from one foster home to another. But Jewel wasn’t always a "State Kid." Her mother Angela’s constant search for happiness through a steady stream of unsavory boyfriends leads to the state’s intervention in Jewel’s life.

Listening to her new foster mother’s list of "nos"—no drugs, no lying, no stealing, no skipping school, no boys in or out of the house, no being late—Jewel realizes that her mother said "yes" a lot. Probably too much. She remembers saving Angela's life when one of many boyfriends beat her, trying to hide another boyfriend's attempts to rape her when she was fourteen, and being sent to a foster home to please the latest boyfriend. But still, Jewel worries about her mother and knows that she will once again pick up the pieces when the latest jerk leaves.

Bit by bit Jewel’s life begins to change for the better after her latest move to a new foster home and school. Although most people can’t see past her tough "State Kid" façade—spray-painted hair, heavy make-up, ripped clothing and unlaced shoes—her English teacher realizes there’s more to Jewel than meets the eye. He convinces her to tutor a fellow student who needs help with math, and gradually she learns how to make friends. In the process, she touches the lives of many people around her, including her social worker, teachers who believe in her, her new-found, tentative friends, and even their parents.

But when she’s forced to choose between her life-long job—taking care of her mother—and doing what’s right for herself, old habits and loyalties are hard to break. Jewel is sure that this time, she can save her mom. But will she be able to save herself?

The picturesque city of San Antonio, Texas with its rich Mexican-American culture provides the ideal backdrop for the award-winning linked stories in this intriguing novel for young people. Luz, a young Latina, will represent her city in the upcoming spelling bee. Her participation in the contest signifies a substantial milestone for her community's sense of pride and achievement.

But her success also triggers a variety of other emotions: Luz's younger sister, Justina, struggles to understand her mixed feelings toward her older sister's accomplishment; Luz's grandmother fears her granddaughter's ambition while another generation of Latinas pins its hope on her; and the Anglo students and parents must come to terms with the increasing visibility of the Latino community.

Woven together with the vivid metaphor of making tortillas, stories such as "Kneading Attitude" and "Mixing Ingredients" explore deep and consequential themes in this charming and hopeful collection. "White Bread Competition" won 2nd place in the Chicano/Latino Literary Prize at the University of California, Irvine.

JO ANN HERNÁNDEZ is the author of White Bread Competition (Piñata Books, 1997), which received recognition as the second place winner of the University of California at Irvine ’s Chicano / Latino Literary Prize in 1996, and The Throwaway Piece (Piñata Books, 2006). Her work has been published in various journals.

Jo Ann is also the founder of BronzeWord Latino Virtual Book Tours, which is a company devoted to promoting Latino authors and literature through virtual book tours. To learn more, visit


Anonymous said...

Thank you Rene I am honored that you used your day to champion my books. Also you may not know that "The Throwaway Piece" won first place at the Chicano/Latino Prize from the University of California in Irvine.
Thank you very much for your support,
Jo Ann Hernandez

Rene Colato Lainez said...

De nada Jo Ann,

You books are amazing!