Esperanza Rising

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Esperanza Rising is the story of a young girl and the struggles she faces growing up.  The book is reviewed by Sweet on Books.

What You Need to Know:
• Esperanza’s story will inspire others never to give up hope.
• The story takes place in 1930 and readers are exposed to the hardships of the time – attacks by bandits, class warfare and limited rights for women and immigrants.
• Make sure your reader is prepared for death and illness.
• The importance of family and the special nature of these relationships stands out.
• There is also a message of empowerment for women as Esperanza, her mother and grandmother must survive on their own.
• Perfect for a book group discussion, this story will encourage interesting conversations about family, friendship and what makes people different.

Sweet Book Summary:
The story begins in the 1920’s when Esperanza is six years old. The reader understands right away the importance of her relationship with her father and her love of the land she’s grown up on. The story jumps ahead six years and we learn a little more about Esperanza and her family. They are very wealthy Mexican landowners living on El Rancho de las Rosas. It is a turbulent time in post-revolution Mexico, and while Esperanza’s parents treat their servants well, there is a great deal of animosity from the lower class. Esperanza is about to turn thirteen and is happy and carefree in her life.

When Esperanza’s father is killed by bandits, her world is turned upside down. Her two cruel uncles attempt to convince her mother to marry one of them. When she refuses, they burn down Esperanza’s house, injuring her beloved grandmother, Abuelita. Luckily, Esperanza and her mother receive comfort and support from their servants, Alfonso, his wife Hortensia and their 16 year old son, Miguel. Miguel plays an important role in Esperanza’s life as their relationship highlights the expanse between rich and poor and how easily that can change. Together, Esperanza, her mother and their old servants begin a long and difficult journey to California to begin a new life.

Things in California could not be more different for Esperanza. They live in a camp with other workers and spend their days toiling in the fields. Her clothes are hand me downs and she has nothing of her former life except a beautiful doll given to her by her father. Things get more complicated when Esperanza’s mother becomes ill from a dust storm. Esperanza must survive on her own while her mother spends months in the hospital. These experiences change Esperanza. She is no longer a “queen” as Miguel once called her. She takes care of others now. She’s aware of others’ needs. She sees beyond the confined world she came from in Mexico and begins to understand some of the complications people face including death, poverty, illness, immigration and discrimination.

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan Illustrator: n/a Published: 2000, 262 pages
Themes: Character/Values, Ethnicity/Culture, Family Life, Friendship, Growing Up, History, Illness/Death, Life Challenges, Life Changes, Poverty, Self-Awareness/Discovery

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