As we think about using literature to teach about the culture of the Américas, one of the first bridges we must cross is actually finding the authors and novels that address it. The Américas Award, Pura Belpré Award, and Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award provide some suggestions in this regard, but we want to go further. Every week I’ll be searching out new ideas for authors and books, and sharing them here as a “¡Mira, Look!” announcement.
This week I’ll get us started by suggesting Marge Pellegrino’s Journey of Dreams, a young adult novel (ages 11 and up) that tells “the story of how one family survives the Guatemalan army’s ’scorched earth’ campaign in the 1980s and how, in the midst of tragedy, suspicion and fear, their resilient love and loyalty – and Papa’s storytelling – keeps them going. On their harrowing journey as refugees to the United States, the dramatic ebb and flow of events are mirrored in the tapestries of one daughter’s dreams” (Pellegrino).
Pellegrino’s novel has been well received by critics (see Amazon’s summary). The Financial Times wrote that it is “an involving read, strong in the celebration of Mayan-inflected folklore and culture,” while Kirkus offered a starred review, writing “Pellegrino’s great achievement resides in the authenticity of Tomasa’s voice as a Mayan girl. This novel will captivate both Latin American survivors of civil war and their peers. Outstanding.” Lastly, Hazel Rochman, assistant editor at ALA Booklist, wrote: “A modern-day Underground Railroad is the stirring drama narrated by Mayan Tomasa, 13, who in the early 1980s is forced with her family to flee the military burning and slaughter of her mountain village in Guatemala and seek refuge across the border. More than the local color, readers will be held by the escape adventure, and even more by the searing family drama of separation and the climax of reunion, the kindness and courage that fight the cruelty.”