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An update from our thirty-third book club meeting!

On February 26th, we discussed Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This uplifting and beautifully-written novel follows thirteen-year-old Esperanza Ortega. She has a charmed childhood as the daughter of a wealthy ranch-owner in Mexico, but a tragedy causes her to flee to the United States with her mother. In California, Esperanza and her mother become farmworkers, and must navigate poverty, racism, and labor strikes with the support of new friends.

Everybody said that they had really enjoyed Esperanza Rising, and we all shared our favorite moments in the book. We started our discussion by talking about the evolving relationship between Esperanza and her friend Miguel. Back in Mexico, when Miguel was Esperanza’s parents’ servant, Esperanza had said there was ‘a deep river’ between them. We discussed what we thought this river symbolized, and agreed that it meant the gulf of wealth between them, which made Esperanza unwilling to have a relationship with him. We also agreed that it was satisfying to watch this dynamic change over the course of the book.

Then we had a debate: would we have chosen to join the labor strike if we had been farmworkers like Esperanza? Most people said they would have been too scared to join the strike, out of fear of being deported, but one student said she would join the strike because she wanted to work for better wages. It was interesting to hear everybody’s different opinions!

Next we talked about proverbs, or sayings, like the ones that Esperanza’s father and grandmother always told her. It was fun hearing proverbs from different people’s families.

Last but not least, it was creative writing time! Since Esperanza Rising was based on the life story of the author’s grandmother, students had a choice to write down a story they remembered from a grandparent or other elderly person in their life. Or, they could write about a fruit harvest, like in the novel, using all the different senses to make it come alive. Some students chose to share out their writing with the group. It was lovely to hear about people’s grandparents, and the way they described the harvest with detail.

I really enjoyed this month’s book club meeting, and am looking forward to next month, when we will be discussing The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell.

Our next book, to be discussed March 26: The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

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