March 31, 2020
Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman—or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.
But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.
Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
It is a delicate balance to portray the difficult realities of Efrén's life so that the story is hopeful to readers who might be in similar circumstances but sympathetic to readers who might not come to the book with positive thoughts about undocumented immigrants. (And unfortunately, there are readers like that, even in middle school.) Cisneros draws on his twenty plus years as a teacher to achieve this balance in a compelling story that will help those unfamiliar with Efrén's way of life understand it. The details about parents working long hours, children taking care of siblings, and students trying to keep up with school work while struggling with basic needs are well done, and the supporting characters reflect a variety of experiences, including a teacher who tries to help Efrén without being too intrusive. (Another delicate balance.) I'd love to see this book used as a core novel or as a reading group choice, along with Weeks and Varadarajan's Save Me a Seat and Gratz's Refugee.
While Efrén's trip to Tijuana was absolutely fascinating, I have a bad feeling that if a child traveled there alone, there might not be a Lalo to keep him safe. Luckily, in Efrén's story, things work out better than they might in real life.
This will be popular with readers who enjoyed Yang's Front Desk, Saeed's Amal Unbound, Cruz' Everlasting Nora, and Venkatraman's The Bridge Home. It is also a great choice for creating empathy for a troubled section of the population.
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