Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Tequila Worm, Belpre winner 2005

I expected a book for a much older audience based on the title and cover, but wow...this was a squeaky clean read!

We enter into Sofia's life in the barrio of border town McAllen Texas. (I had actually heard of McAllen because the library there seems to be perpetually hiring!)We are taken through her youth with her mom, dad, sister Lucy and best friend cousin Berta. Clara starts off being the storyteller of the bunch, and letting each family member know who they resemble (inside and out) as well as where they came from.

Sofia feels a bit like an outsider in her own barrio. She is not content with the idea of a quinceanera, or comfortable with the whole idea of the day of the dead. She wants to be the best at school, and after a racist incident and on the advice of a teacher, she does just that. She studies and studies until she is the recipient of a scholarship to an elite boarding school (ah here's my theme again!) in Austin. But will Sofia's family let her go? Will Sofia want to go when the time comes. Will she ever learn what it means to be a comadre?

The non-Mexican or non Mexican American reader is in for quite a treat. Author Viola Canales has let us into Sofia's household to get a crash course in Mexican tradition, cuisine and culture. And not just the activities themselves, but also the meanings and reasons behind them. From the ritualistic cleaning of the beans with her father, to the making of Easter cascarones, the reader is fully immersed.

What I like as well, is the fact that unlike other books containing Spanish, there is no glossary. I like that I feel like I should know what these terms mean, and if I can't get it from the context, I can always look it up.

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