This week and next, I will be highlighting two books that are part of the three book series by our November Book Group author, Francisco Jiménez. Our book group is reading The Circuit, the first book in this series. Today we will take a look at Breaking Through and next week at Reaching Out. Together, these three autobiographical books span from the author’s childhood through college. A bit about the author from his web page at Santa Clara University: “Francisco Jiménez emigrated with his family to California from Tlaquepaque, Mexico, and as a child he worked in the fields of California. He is currently the Fay Boyle Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures [...] he has published and edited several books on Mexican and Mexican American literature, and his stories have been published in over 100 textbooks and anthologies of literature.”
Jiménez is another one of those authors whose literary awards and achievements seem hard to believe. From ALA Best Book awards, to Americas Awards, to Smithsonian Notable Book awards, all the way to more than one Pura Belpré Author Honors Book Award (try 2) and numerous others on the spectrum, Jiménez’s awards should speak for themselves as to the caliber of his writing. Breaking Through, the sequel to The Circuit is one of these outstanding books.
Picking up where The Circuit left off, Breaking Through traces the Jiménez family’s deportation back to Mexico, their struggle with extreme poverty and their desire to come (through legal channels) back to America. His family is deported when he is 14 (8th grade) by the officer coming into his classroom to find him. About the book, Jiménez says, “It spans the crucial years of my young adult life, beginning with the deportation of my family and me back to Mexico [...] I wrote this sequel [...] voice the experiences of many children and young adults who confront numerous obstacles in their efforts to, “break through…and become butterflies” (from Breaking Through). I was struck by this first event in the book: the deportation. Jiménez is called out of his classroom when the principal and a border patrol agent, “la migra” come into his classroom to get him and his brother. I wondered what a profound impact that may have had on him (which he discusses in the book) and on his fellow classmates? Would they understand? Would they be sad, angry, frustrated, afraid? Would they think nothing of it? What if this happened in your classroom?
Eventually Panchito (as Jiménez is referred to) and his family make it back to the U.S. and the book chronicles the struggles of a not-so-typical (and in some situations, very typical) teenager who must work to help support his family while navigating the confusing, difficult and trying world of prejudice. Jiménez’s writing style, straight forward, clear and concise, will appeal to young readers. The lessons that middle schoolers can learn from Breaking Through about racism, poverty, immigration, themselves and their friends, is priceless.
I would encourage you to join our November Book Group (click link for more information) and read The Circuit. Then, I would further press you to read Breaking Through and Reaching Out, you won’t be disappointed.
Hasta la próxima vez,