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Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco
     

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco

by Judith Robbins Rose
 

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With humor and sensitivity, a debut novelist explores the coming of age of a girl caught between two cultures as she finds the courage to forge a new destiny.

"Miss, will you be my Amiga?"
Amiga means "friend" in Spanish, but at the youth center, it meant a lady to take you places.
I never asked myself if two people

Overview

With humor and sensitivity, a debut novelist explores the coming of age of a girl caught between two cultures as she finds the courage to forge a new destiny.

"Miss, will you be my Amiga?"
Amiga means "friend" in Spanish, but at the youth center, it meant a lady to take you places.
I never asked myself if two people as different as Miss and me could ever really be amigas.

When Jacinta Juarez is paired with a rich, famous mentor, she is swept away from the diapers and dishes of her own daily life into a world of new experiences. But crossing la linea into Miss’s world is scary. Half of Jacinta aches for the comfort of Mamá and the familiar safety of the barrio, while the other half longs to embrace a future that offers more than cleaning stuff for white people. When her family is torn apart, Jacinta needs to bring the two halves of herself together to win back everything she's lost. Can she channel the power she’s gained from her mentor and the strength she’s inherited from Mamá to save her shattered home life?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
06/22/2015
Rose’s strong debut explores the challenging lives of undocumented Mexican immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens. Jacinta, almost 12, and her two sisters were born in America; the family ekes out a living in Colorado, in constant fear of her parents’ deportation. When a local television anchorwoman comes into her life, Jacinta—whose mother is caring for her own dying mother in Mexico—longs for her to become her mentor in the community center’s Amiga program; she is unprepared for the cultural issues and conflicting emotions that arise when her wish is granted. Rose convincingly depicts Jacinta’s struggles as she explores aspects of upper-middle-class culture—French and gymnastics lessons, theater and ballet performances—while coping with the instability and grimness of barrio life and desperately missing her mother. The well-meaning anchorwoman has her own flaws, which make her a fully dimensional, credible character. A moving portrayal of a girl’s effort to embrace both her Mexican roots and the possibilities of American life, as well as an affecting look at an important contemporary issue. Ages 10–up. Agent: Sean McCarthy, Sean McCarthy Literary Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
Rose presents characters in crisis, whose stories are personal, rather than broadly representative, and the book is better for it. Ultimately, this is a story about code switching, and about the different skill sets and assumptions required for complex cross-cultural and cross-class situations. An interesting first novel that treats its complex characters with unusual dignity.
—School Library Journal

Rose convincingly depicts Jacinta’s struggles as she explores aspects of upper-middle-class culture—French and gymnastics lessons, theater and ballet performances—while coping with the instability and grimness of barrio life and desperately missing her mother...A moving portrayal of a girl’s effort to embrace both her Mexican roots and the possibilities of American life, as well as an affecting look at an important contemporary issue.
—Publishers Weekly

This smart debut is a poignant exploration of cultural variations and family ties through the eyes of a lovable and funny narrator. Timely in its look at the plight of undocumented immigrants and their American-born children, it is a story of empowerment against the shadows of life in the barrio.
—Booklist

Jacinta’s story gives readers insight into the world of immigrant families and their difficult lives: the fear of discovery, the poverty, distrust of anyone who is not Mexican.
—VOYA

I loved "Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco" for its passionate story telling and unflagging integrity. I kept on turning the page thinking there's no way the author can sustain the tension and feeling without resorting to cliches and sentimentality, but somehow she does.
—Chicago Tribune

A valiant effort that wrestles with important, complex themes.
—Kirkus Reviews

VOYA, October 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 4) - Debbie Wenk
Twelve-year-old Jacinta Juarez has a secret—while she and her sisters are US citizens because they were born here, their parents are undocumented immigrants. As a result of a series of mishaps, a local newswoman becomes Jacinta’s “amiga” or mentor through a neighborhood youth center. “Miss”—as Jacinta calls her—opens a new world for the young girl—swimming, gymnastics, French classes—and awakens a desire to be more and have more. The rather unwieldy title is a little misleading. Jacinta does begin to feel out of place in both of her worlds—home and with “Miss”—but both worlds require caution on her part, not just the “Barrio Blanco.” When her father is arrested and deported, Jacinta feels guilty for wanting too much and not safeguarding the family’s secret more carefully. Jacinta’s story gives readers insight into the world of immigrant families and their difficult lives: the fear of discovery, the poverty, distrust of anyone who is not Mexican. The danger and difficulty of traveling between the US and Mexico for the undocumented is also made apparent when Jacinta’s mother, who has been caring for her dying mother, tries to return to her family in the US. Older teen readers will become impatient with Jacinta’s roller coaster emotions, but they ring true for a girl her age in her situation and young teens will be able to relate. By the end, she learns the difference between fairness and grace and begins to see a way to bring her two worlds into balance. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk; Ages 11 to 14.
Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
Almost-twelve-year-old Jacinta meets the perfect candidate to be her mentor in the youth center’s Amiga program, a glamorous TV reporter—a rich American—or so Jacinta thinks. Their relationship is an important element in this often gripping novel, but so is Jacinta’s love for her family—her two sisters, her secretive father, and, most of all, her Mamá, who has gone back to Mexico to care for Abuelita, the girls’ grandmother. Misunderstandings abound. “Miss,” as Jacinta calls her, is not really rich and expects a lot of Jacinta, who is portrayed as bubbling with emotions: jealousy, ambition, manipulation of others, fear, and longing for her mother. Although Jacinta relishes the new experiences to which she is exposed, she feels torn between her two worlds. When the police pick up her undocumented father, both worlds collapse. Despite her local fame, Miss is helpless to keep Papi from being deported. Mamá is coming back, but at great risk in illegally crossing the border. Young readers will empathize with Jacinta’s almost unbearable fear and tension, which Rose manages to keep increasing until the unresolved ending. Not all American authorities are presented as heartlessly cruel; when Mamá, battered and robbed, arrives at last, one sympathetic officer follows his heart and lets her proceed. Rose offers readers a close look at a harsh system and the havoc it wreaks on immigrants’ lives. Readers need to understand; for better or worse, they will be part of a future solution. Teachers and parents can encourage further research and discussion. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft; Ages 10 to 14.
School Library Journal
07/01/2015
Gr 4–7—Jacinta may not know much about the world outside the barrio, but she knows how to grab a chance with both hands and make it work for her. When a well-known news anchorwoman comes to report on her youth center, Jacinta uses a combination of luck, cunning, and raw emotion to guilt "Miss" into becoming her amiga and mentor. As she and and Miss get closer and come to know each other's families over the next year, they frustrate and learn from one another, and ultimately precipitate a crisis in Jacinta's already fraught life. Miss is also far from perfect, and she struggles openly with professional, personal, and financial issues, but Jacinta's dangers tend to be more immediate—her parents are both undocumented, and her family faces eviction, deportation, and the violence and uncertainty of re-entry. The story is narrated from Jacinta's point of view after the fact, with both additional exposition and regretful foreshadowing. This allows the author a greater range of perspective, but makes Jacinta's experiences less immediate, more told than shown. The plotting is rough and choppy but the characters burn through the page. Jacinta with her fierce neediness, Miss with her irritability, fear, condescension/confusion, and basic decency. It's as pleasurable to watch these characters take one another by surprise as it is horribly anxiety-producing to see them hurt, stumble, insult, and misunderstand nearly every situation requiring contextual awareness. Rose doesn't sugarcoat the hypocrisies and tough realities of the relationship, and of the very real reasons that they mistrust one another. Nearly everyone in the book makes some some pretty serious and unforgivable mistakes, but as flawed humans they are allowed to wear their flaws, to make mature decisions and stupid childish ones. Rather than writing an "issue book," Rose presents characters in crisis, whose stories are personal, rather than broadly representative, and the book is better for it. Ultimately, this is a story about code switching, and about the different skill sets and assumptions required for complex cross-cultural and cross-class situations. VERDICT An interesting first novel that treats its complex characters with unusual dignity.—Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
2015-05-06
A preteen Mexican-American girl gains a locally famous white woman as her mentor—but feels like she's losing her identity. Jacinta Juárez is struggling with the absence of her mother when she meets newscaster Kathryn Dawson Dahl, whom Jacinta calls "Miss," and decides the journalist will be her mentor no matter what. Jacinta has no qualms manipulating the people and situations around her to reach her goal, making her a difficult protagonist to sympathize with. While Jacinta and Miss' relationship is anything but sweet, Miss offers an escape from stifling responsibilities and new experiences: Jacinta takes gymnastics lessons, French class, and attends the ballet. But as the once-naïve Jacinta's world expands, so does her confusion about where she belongs. When her undocumented parents are threatened, Jacinta looks to Miss for help but finds her new experiences have given her new confidence to face challenges. Sometimes Jacinta's ignorance makes sense given her situation, but at other times it feels forced. More distressing, however, are statements like, "I realized power doesn't come from your job or the color of your skin. Real power comes from inside. It's not something that someone can give you. And it's not something that anyone can take away," which paint a positive veneer on difficult, complex issues without simple fixes. Still, a valiant effort that wrestles with important, complex themes. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763672355
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
09/08/2015
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
704,376
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile:
510L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Meet the Author

Judith Robbins Rose lives in the Denver metro area, where she volunteers as a fund-raiser to develop facilities for low-income communities and serves as a mentor and tutor for at-risk youth. Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco is her first novel.

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