Danny’s tall and skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. Ninety-five mile an hour fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets up on the mound he loses it. But at his private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny’s brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. But it works the other way too. And Danny’s convinced it’s his whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico. That’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. Only, to find himself, he may just have to face the demons he refuses to see–the demons that are right in front of his face. And open up to a friendship he never saw coming. Set in the alleys and on the ball fields of San Diego County, Mexican Whiteboy is a story of friendship, acceptance, and the struggle to find your identity in a world of definitions.
This was one of those books that I didn’t like the first time I read it, but I loved the second time through. In all honesty, my first impression may be due more to secondary factors influencing my experience than the book itself. Since I always read everything at least twice before writing a guide, I thought I’d listen to the audio version of the book the first time through while driving back from Tucson. The audio version does not do de la Peña’s writing justice. I only made it through about 40 pages before I had to turn it off, and unfortunately I think this really tainted my opinion of the book. I waited a few weeks before starting the guide, and as I read the book a second time through, it was like an entirely different experience. I could go into more detail about why I think this is, but for the sake of time I won’t. I mention it here only because I hope that if you read it once and aren’t entirely sold, that you’ll give it a second chance. It’s a book that engages with issues that we rarely see in our classroom literature (I’ll talk more about this below). It’s also a book that is resoundingly well-received by students. Over and over we hear from teachers across the country who all say it’s one of their students’ favorite books.