Thursday’s Book Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Drawing on her own family history, Pam Munoz Ryan tells the story of a young Mexican girl, Esperanza, living during the time of the Great Depression in America. She is the cherished daughter of a wealthy padrone, and lives in luxury and ease until political upheaval and the greed of her own step-uncles rob Esperanza of both her father and her wealth, and send her fleeing to California with her mother for safety.
Esperanza quickly learns that America is not the answer to all her problems. Nor does it provide the new life Miguel, her friend and former servant, hopes for. There is still the vast divide between rich and poor, only now those inequalities are compounded by differences in language and race. Ryan wields these issues deftly. They never become oppressive or political. She keeps everything true to what Esperanza sees and experiences.
Esperanza is the perfect representative for the plight of the poor laborer. She is incredibly wealthy before her troubles begin, so she experiences what it means to be poor for the first time, and we see it through her eyes. It is a rag to riches story in reverse. And it does not end with an easy answer. Only the reassurance that life’s most important riches are family, friends, the fruit of the land, and the power of hope.