For this unit, I chose the award-winning book, Esperanza Rising by Pam Mu–oz Ryan. To start the story, Esperanza, a twelve year old girl, whose name in English means hope, is living with her family on El Rancho de las Rosas in Aguascalientes, Mexico during the 1920's. Esperanza's family is well off, with servants, field workers, and little concerns about finances. She wears beautiful dresses, has wonderful birthday gifts and parties, and is surrounded by her tight-knit family of Mama, Papa and Abuelita. Esperanza has no way of foreseeing her future, in which things take a drastic turn.
When Esperanza's father is killed by bandits, his brother, Tío Luis, gives Mama an unfair proposition. She is either to give them the farm and all of their property, or marry him so that he may run the farm. Tío Luis is a very powerful man in Aguascalientes, and promised to make their lives miserable if they did not agree to his terms. When Mama tried to deny his requests, Tío Luis set their house on fire while they were sleeping. Finally, Mama realized there was no escaping his proposition, and something needed to be done. That evening, Esperanza and Mama decide to flee to California with a family of their servants, who graciously offered to help them find work. Unfortunately, most of their belongings had been burned, and Abuelita was too ill to make the journey. She would stay in hiding until she was well enough to join them in California. When the characters get to California, they live and work on a farm for Mexican workers. This proves to be a great adjustment for Esperanza, who is now doing jobs that her servants would have done before. Still, they are safe, and together, and are thankful to have escaped their unfortunate situation in Mexico. Sadly, things go from bad to worse, when Mama gets sick, and Esperanza, only a young child, is forced to work the job that Mama has committed to doing.
As Esperanza grows both physically and mentally, she comes to realize that the life she lived in Mexico was only great because of the family that surrounded her. The reader accompanies Esperanza, as she learns to keep track of time by following the crop seasons. Through Esperanza's growth, we learn what it really means to be happy in life. Esperanza has grown even stronger than ever as she lives through tragedies most could never dream of. This book is a great spiritual journey through the life of a young girl who journeys from riches to rags.
Pam Mu–oz Ryan is an author of many children's books, many of which revolve around Latino characters. Ryan wrote Esperanza Rising based on stories she used to hear from her grandmother when she was a child. Although she has changed many of the details, the story parallels her grandmother's life in many ways.