Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Esperanza: A Latina Story

Title: Esperanza: A Latina Story
Author: Sandra C. Lopez
Page Count: 355
My rating: 3.5 TURTLES: A very enjoyable read, I recommend you check it out.


Fourteen-year old Esperanza Ignacio could only think of a few words to sum up her life: crap, crap, crap! She was born into a poor Latino family living in a small crummy apartment in the barrio side of town, where the graffiti chiseled more the souls and character of the residents than it impacted the exterior looks of the buildings. Her father was a drunken, gambler, and wife-beater who, one cold night, got arrested after a violent intrusion. Her entire circle of relatives consisted of nothing but formers-former drug-addicts, former gangsters and gang-bangers, former alcoholics, former everything. Yep, her life was nothing but a huge load of crap. And she hadn't even started high school yet. After surviving a scorching summer heat, Esperanza enters the unfamiliar world of high-school with a tight knot in her stomach. On the very first day, she is sucked into a blunder of catastrophic events beginning with accidentally running into the world's BIGGEST bully. Now, she has made herself the prime target for a main course. And, to top it all off, she has to see this girl everyday in P.E! P.E.-the one class Esperanza truly despises the most. Could life be any worse for her? Well, her family could take in a relative hopped up on drugs, a probable shooting can take place right in front of her, and Esperanza could also sit and listen to the crazed ranting of her loud psychotic mother. Oh, wait, all that does happen. To make things even easier, her best friend, Carla, won't stop trying to marry her off to her twin brother, Carlos. And she has these two puny siblings constantly vying for her attention. God, it's a wonder she doesn't strap herself in a straight jacket and pretend to be Elvis. Nonetheless, Esperanza attempts to get through it all. She is a smart and ambitious young kid struggling to survive her life while fighting to make her mark on the world. Her story is filled with pain, strength, and too much loud bickering. It carries a voice enriched with barrio slang and sarcastic humor. Esperanza illustrates what persistent Latino youth can achieve when they get back up after a fall and keep on walking straight into college. "Esperanza is an admirable and too real story of many Latino youths lacking role models, who find themselves lost and isolated in the paved jungles of the inner cities and overwhelmed by the dissonance of barrio life. Sandra C. Lopez has created a resilient and likeable character, Esperanza, who seems closer to a naked truth-seeker than to a barrio kid-desperately trying to get out of a crappy world, but not knowing exactly where she was going to. Highly Recommended." Andrea Alessandra, University of California, Berkeley "Sandra Lopez is a fresh and resonant voice from the Hispanic rainbow." Ray Michael Baca Author-"Brotherhood of the Light"


Esperanza was given to me by the author. It was the first book I had reviewed that was given to me for the purpose of reviewing in a while and I am glad I did. Much of what I love about receiving review books is that it exposes me to so many stories that I would not have picked up by myself.

Esperanza is a girl growing up in a poor LA barrio who wants more than what her current situation offers. It is an inspiring story of perseverance, and I really liked how this story focuses on the main character's upward trajectory out of a bad situation and not just focuses on the negative. Another thing I really like about the story is how Lopez interweaves Spanish dialogue with the English. I thought it  authentically showed the atmosphere of how bilingual communities interact. I say the as a person who can read Spanish fairly proficiently though. While most of the Spanish dialogue is mostly easy to infer, and no major plot points are divulged in Spanish, I could see how it could be potentially frustrating for non-Spanish speakers. Another way Lopez captures a feel of authenticity in Esperanza is how she shows Esperanza's family's dynamics. The relationships between the different relatives are complex and nuanced, and I felt as though if I went to LA  I would be able to find her family there, real as life.

This story was a bit different than the ones I usually read in that there was not a definitively clear story arc. It told the story of a life over a period of several years, and while there was a clear culmination, it was not like a story about a quest or a romance if a mystery where everything is focused on that event. It was focused on a life, and this seems much harder to write, but it was partly because if this I had some points where I had trouble staying engaged. The beginning started off a bit slow for me and it took several chapters before I really got into he story. There were also parts in the middle where I got bored be used there were scenes that I felt didn't further the plot in any way. Yes, Esperanza's younger siblings are a hassle, and it may be that for all four years of high school the only thing her best friend can talk about is hooking Esperanza up with her brother, but if I have already read several scenes that amply illustrate these things, I don't need more.

Also, while I understand the author wanted to write with a young voice and also wanted to get across how unhappy Esperanza was with her lot, the complaining in the narration and tone at some point stopped adding to the story. That's not to say it was unfounded, but the author has to walk a fine line between letting us into a character's head, but not showing so much that we start to lose sympathy for the character (unless that was the intention, which it clearly was not in this instance). A character may be able to live in a bear perpetual state of annoyance, but I as the reader cannot.

All things considered though, Esperanza is an enjoyable and inspiring read. It is a story very much about the American Dream and fighting for your aspirations. It is also a story told through a lens we do not see enough of. I'll be excited to see what else this author puts out.

Check Esperanza: A Latina Story out on Amazon

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