Under The Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a short verse novel, easily readable in two hours, but lingers long after you close the book.
Lupita is a teenage girl living in Eagle Pass, Texas with her big Mexican American family. Life is good for her. Until everything changes. Lupita overhears that her mother has cancer, which means her father must work overtime, the savings of Lupita and her seven siblings for college are decimated to fund Mami’s costly operations. Lupita is forced to grow up fast.
Yet, Under The Mesquite succeeds in portraying Lupita’s resilience as she struggles to balance her needs with that of her family’s. McCall does a fabulous job of portraying this common struggle for impoverished children, whether their parents have cancer or not. I mean, Lupita has to pick between watching her siblings or taking acting lessons. She’s got this struggle between what maybe more affluent kids would consider their birthright, but what she sees as a privilege and duty to family, since her parents definitely can’t afford a nanny seeing as how every penny goes towards chemo. It’s heartbreaking, but a reality for many kids, unfortunately. Yet, despite having to babysit her siblings, Lupita is relatable and admirable as she takes comfort and strength in acting and writing.
Further, Under The Mesquite is culturally interesting. I know that has like zero flow as far as sentence structure goes, but roll with me on this. Guadalupe Garcia McCall uses Spanish words in her verse, but the flow is never disrupted with an English meaning right after the Spanish word. Rather, there is a glossary in the back of the book where the reader can look up the word or the cultural practice if the context clues are not enough. Under The Mesquite is not trite. I think this book trusts the reader and I liked that. Under The Mesquite feels authentic and not like a book where the purpose is to teach culture, but rather, Lupita happens to be Mexican-American and it’s integrated seamlessly into Lupita’s character.
I think readers will be able connect with Lupita and by extension Under The Mesquite through the very common human themes, Mexican-American or not. I absolutely recommend this book, especially for reluctant readers and readathoners.
Disclosure: Received for review
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Also, this book totally counts for the PoC Reading Challenge.