Hopefully, the school year is still full steam ahead. I would like to turn your attention to a book that not only discusses what it means to face challenges in school, but it also refers to what happens when someone’s ambition juxtaposes them to what society expects from them. Ashley Perez’s What Can’t Wait is a coming of age tale that explores what it means to be caught between two worlds.
What Can’t Wait is a book that is most appropriate for young adults. There is some coarse language, which is not atypical for a book geared towards this age group, but it actually gives credence to the book by making the voice of the main character, Marisa, sound more realistic. Perez vividly portrays Marisa realistically as a young woman who is stuck at a crossroad. One appeal to this book is that it is written in first person, and the audience has insight into Marisa’s thoughts. This is very valuable as her thoughts come across as both emotional and intelligent; they set the stage for the conflict in this book. Also, it is worth mentioning that Perez, who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University (my alma mater!) has taught K-12 classes in Houston, including bilingual kindergarten. Plus, I know we teach our students not to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is very enticing and sharp; it’s very modern.
Marisa is a good student who comes from a family of immigrants. While she tries to develop her own identity, she sets herself apart from her family. Arguably, the author utilizes the stereotype of the working-class, barrio-bound immigrant family that will always be downtrodden by choice. However, I would suggest that she explores this stereotype as she explores what it means to be from the working-class in context of the American Dream. For most of us, the American Dream is a given. Everyone is looking for opportunity and arduously working toward success, right? Perez challenges the notion of the American Dream by demonstrating alternative ideas of it exist. For Marisa’s family, the dream is to work hard and lead an ordinary life (marriage, children, etc.) in the neighborhood. However, Marisa is a talented young student with the potential for a very bright future, and she is not really sure if she wants to follow in the footsteps as many in her family have.
I highly recommend that you check out this book because of its underlying connotations on individuality. On a personal note, as I read the words of this book, I found it rather easy to substitute names of actual family members with characters in the book. My family is composed of working-class folks who have questioned my status of what appears to be a life-long student from time to time. I chose a different path because I conceptualized my own idea of the American Dream as Perez encourages young people to do. At the very least, this book will open dialogue on what it means to each of us to follow our own paths in life as opposed to doing what we believe others would want us to do.
Until next time,