Jessie de la Cruz: A Profile of a United Farm Workerby Gary Soto
The remarkable story of the UFW's first woman organizer, eloquently written for young adults. Here is a quiet hero--a farm worker who walked the fields of the San Joaquin Valley for nearly half a century. Her name is Jessie De La Cruz. Much like other farm workers who threw down their hoes and their grape knives to fight for their rights as workers, she made a difference in the world. Studs Terkel wrote about Jessie De La Cruz, she has been quoted in histories of the UFW, and a television movie was partly based on her life. Finally, here is the life story of this remarkable woman, sensitively told by one of America's most eloquent writers. Born in 1919, Jessie worked alongside her family as they followed the crops throughout the state of California. She saw those around her struggle and sometimes die because of poor living and working conditions. Jessie wanted to help. And she always found a way, whether it was peddling soup with her grandmother to earn extra money for her family or translating for a Mexican diplomat who came to talk with workers and growers about conditions in the fields. In her teens, Jessie saw the first strikes. When Cesar Chavez asked her to collect names of farm workers who wanted to improve their lives, she agreed. She had a knack for that important work. She went from camp to camp, talking to workers, and became the UFW's first woman organizer. Jessie also married, and raised six children. Later, she went as a delegate to a Democratic convention, owned her own farm, testified before Congress, and met with the Pope. In this clear and moving narrative, enhanced by photographs of the period, Jessie De La Cruz comes to life. Her feelings and experiences are captured against a background of the Depression and the civil rights and labor movements. For those looking for inspiration, who wish to do big things--Jessie is living proof that it can be done.
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Gary Soto, author of books for children, young adults, and adults, lives in Berkeley, California. His best-selling fiction includes Baseball in April and Buried Onions.
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