With the Fire on High

By Laura Acevedo

Who, What, Where?

Laura Acevedo tells the story of an aspiring Afro-Boricua chef and teen mom in the heart of Philadelphia, in With the Fire on High.  Emoni, in her senior year of high school faces one of life’s toughest challenges, growing up and learning how to continue following her passion. Emoni juggles parenting, working and being a full time student when she takes a leap of faith and joins a cooking class as her senior elective, with the opportunity to travel to Spain. This book is a wonderful coming of age story that portrays its protagonist as a capable, loving and independent young woman who need a little help from her friends and family along the way.

Amazon.com: With the Fire on High (Audible Audio Edition): Elizabeth  Acevedo, Elizabeth Acevedo, Hot Key Books: Audible Books & Originals

Principle Themes

Some of the principle themes in the book are (1) cooking as a form of connection (2) family, and (3) Afro-Boricua identity. Emoni’s biggest passion is cooking, and throughout the book the dishes she makes are not only a way to connect with people but to also express and evoke emotions. Family is an important theme in Emoni’s intergenerational household, from being a mom herself to living under Abuela’s roof and a father back on the island of Puerto Rico, family relationships and their dynamics are a central part of With the Fire on High. The last principle theme is Afro-Boricua identity, and how Emoni navigates through different spaces in a world that’s quick to put is into boxes.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe Emoni’s relationship to cooking? How does it define her life? What does it add to her life?
  2. Where is home for Emoni and how does she describe it? What does home mean to her?
  3. What is the difference between chosen family and nuclear family? Do you consider anyone part of your chosen family? Who does Emoni choose as her family? How do these people contribute to her life?
  4. How does young motherhood shape and change Emoni’s life? What kind of challenges does she face and how does she work to overcome them?

Age: 13-17 years old

Region: USA: Philadelphia

Language: English

Additional Resources

  1. Check out the author’s website: http://www.acevedowrites.com/
  2. Sample lesson for teaching With the Fire on High: https://readingwithrelevance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/With-the-Fire-on-High-Sample-Lesson.pdf
  3. Reading guide questions: https://www.bookbrowse.com/reading_guides/detail/index.cfm/book_number/3952/with-the-fire-on-high

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