professornana (professornana) wrote,

the thing about Latino literature, IMHO

On the plane ride from Chicago to Houston I read the newest book by Alan Sitomer, THE SECRET STORY OF SONIA RODRIQUEZ (Hyperion, 2008).

Sonia might just be the first in her family to graduate high school. That is, if she can help her mother during her final stages of pregnancy, deal with her "drunkle" and her superstitious aunt and her less-than-helpful brothers. Sonia must miss many days of classes to fill the gap at home. She is trying her hardest to complete her senior year, but things are becoming so overwhelming. Her mother and aunt decide Sonia should spend some time with her abuelita in Mexico. It is there that Sonia learns much more about determination in the face of overwhelming obstacles that she ever thought she would.

Being the first is something I know a little bit about. First child, first granddaughter, first to complete college and advanced degrees. Like Sonia, I have had to sometimes fight for the time to do what some take for granted. I know this is true for so many of my own students as well. Many of the people who receive their MLS degrees are the firsts as well. I think Sitomer is hitting an important piece here for many readers, perhaps some of them reluctant readers, too. I identified with Sonia and her struggles even though we are from different ethnic backgrounds. I suspect that the residents of the back bedroom will identify with her for different reasons altogether.

My only concern is what I perceived and have had affirmed by my students in the Rio Grande Valley here in Texas. Books with Latino characters from other parts of the country, especially California, tend not to resonate as real for their students. Students here relate to Benjamin Saenz, David Rice, Renee Saldana, Viola Canales, and others more so than other writers of literature for Hispanics. I will be curious to see how this book does with Texas students. I am hopeful that this concept of being the first is one that will translate across borders.
Tags: hispanic literature

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