Our October Book Group selection is by a wonderful author, Pam Munoz Ryan, so I thought it only fitting to highlight another of her acclaimed books: Esperanza Rising. Focusing on the Great Depression, “Esperanza Ortega possesses all the treasures a girl could want: dresses, a home filled with servants in Mexico; and the promise of one day presiding over El Rancho de la Rosas. But a tragedy shatters that dream, forcing Esperanza and her mother to flee to Arvin, California and settle in a farm camp. There, they confront the challenges of work, acceptance and economic difficulties brought on by the Great Depression.” (author’s web site).
You’ll probably think I’m lying when you read the list of awards Esperanza Rising has obtained: Pura Belpre, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, The Willa Cather Award, Americas Award Honor Book, ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, Publisher Weekly’s Best Book of the Year (2000), NY Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, IRA Notable book for Global Society, NCSS Notable Book for Young People, LA Times Book Prize Finalist, Smithsonian Best Book of the Year. You’ll hardly believe that this list isn’t exhaustive. But I assure you, I tell the truth.
Munoz Ryan has a soft but compelling writing style which captures her audience, be they young or old, and draws them into her stories about life, nature, relationships, and love. Immediately, you are drawn into Esperanza’s world: a world of light, love and appreciation. Quickly, as her world changes, you walk with Esperanza on her difficult path of immigration to the United States, navigating the quick deep waters of self-discovery. By basing Esperanza losely on her Grandmother’s life, Munoz Ryan has given Esperanza a depth of character that only seems to come from those who intimately know something about the subject of which they write.
Munoz Ryan: “People frequently ask me, “What is your motivation to write?” The answer is simple. I want the reader to turn the page.” And turn we will Mrs. Munoz Ryan, turn we will.
Happily Lost in Esperanza,
As a bonus, check out the National Endowment for the Humanities’ web site on Esperanza Rising. It has great materials to help you use this book in your classroom, from leading/guiding questions, to activities and more.