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That's Not Fair!: Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice / ¡No Es Justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia

That's Not Fair!: Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice / ¡No Es Justo!: La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia

by Carmen Tafolla

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A vivid depiction of the early injustices encountered by a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920's, this book tells the true story of Emma Tenayuca. Emma learns to care deeply about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were starving to death and working unreasonably long hours at slave wages in the city's pecan-shelling


A vivid depiction of the early injustices encountered by a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920's, this book tells the true story of Emma Tenayuca. Emma learns to care deeply about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were starving to death and working unreasonably long hours at slave wages in the city's pecan-shelling factories. Through astute perception, caring, and personal action, Emma begins to get involved, and eventually, at the age of 21, leads 12,000 workers in the first significant historical action in the Mexican-American struggle for justice. Emma Tenayuca's story serves as a model for young and old alike about courage, compassion, and the role everyone can play in making the world more fair.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This inspirational story, illustrated with brightly colored, touching artwork, will teach readers that one determined person can make the world a better place. Highly recommended for all schools and public libraries." —Críticas, starred review

"Striking illustrations . . . an important book celebrating the struggle for justice and civil rights.  —School Library Journal

"Tells of Ms. Tenayuca's life, not as an organizer, orator, or leader but as a girl whose sharp mind and compassion for others sows the seeds of activism."  —National Catholic Reporter

"Carmen Tafolla is a pioneer of Chicana literature and a unique Southwestern voice. Her poems and stories will teach you as much as touch your heart."  —Ana Castillo, author, So Far from God

"That’s Not Fair! is a coming-of-age story of a child who is moved to action by the poverty and injustice she witnesses all around her . . . . Emma the child, learning from her gentle grandfather, matured into Emma the organizer who led the mostly Mexican, mostly women pecan shellers . . . is a story that will resonate with young children . . . . An important book about a child’s confronting injustice and growing up to make a difference, That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s struggle for justice / ¡No Es Justo! La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia is highly recommended." —Beverly Slapin, decoloresreviews.blogspot.com

Children's Literature - Maria E. Gentle
Before there was Cesar Chavez, there was Emma Tenayuca. This bilingual (Spanish/English) biography about little known Emma Tenayuca's struggle on behalf of Texas pecan shellers who were some of the lowest paid laborers in the nation is well told by Emma's niece Ms. Teneyuca and Dr. Tafolla. As is always the case involving unjust causes, the poor peasants were oppressed Mexican Americans. Most of them were Texans of several generations, unlike the many members of the current immigration problem who are mainly illegal residents. In the 1920s and 1930s these pecan shellers worked in deplorable circumstances: twelve hour days, seven days a week, for as little as six cents per pound of pecans shelled. Furthermore, most of these workers were women. They breathed the pecan dust when working in closed quarters which made them sick. In 1938 their wages were cut in half and that was when they found in Ms. Tenayuca a champion for their cause. Emma cared enough to organize a strike and eventually the salaries were raised. Emma became a voice of hope. The illustrations by muralist Ybanez have a decidedly Tex-Mex feel. Every page is framed by a tree and branches making for very attractive double spreads. This biography is perfect for use in the school curriculum. This is also recommended for public libraries. It is nice to have other biographies of social reformers besides the well known ones on Cesar Chavez. Reviewer: Maria E. Gentle
School Library Journal

Gr 2-6

The title of this bilingual biography echoes the theme of the life of a legendary Mexican-American activist in Texas during the 1920s and 1930s. The story moves from Tenayuca's childhood introduction to the poverty and unfair treatment of Mexican Americans living in her hometown of San Antonio to her increasing awareness of the injustice they suffered, and ultimate fight for their civil rights. Their plight made her angry: "She saw so many people go to work when it was still dark and not come home again until late at night. Many worked so many hours that they were coughing and sick, and still they did not earn enough to feed their children." In 1938, at the age of 21, she led a successful strike of 12,000 pecan shellers whose pitiful wages had been cut from six cents to three cents an hour. In an afterword, which includes photographs of Tenayuca, the rest of her story is related: jailed many times, forced to move, she eventually worked her way through college and returned later to San Francisco as a reading teacher for migrant children. Ybáñez's striking illustrations, framed by pecan-tree branches, are reflective of traditional Mexican mural art, with bold colors and simple shapes. An important book celebrating the struggle for justice and civil rights.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI

Product Details

Wings Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
12.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)
AD650L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 7 Years

Read an Excerpt

That's Not Fair!/¡No Es Justo!

Emma Tenayuca's Struggle for Justice/La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la Justicia

By Carmen Tafolla, Sharyll Teneyuca, Terry Ybáñez

Wings Press

Copyright © 2008 Wings Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-054-5


1925 ...

The little girl with the shining, black eyes walked eagerly to school. She passed a small shack that had no door. Inside, a baby was crying, as his mother tried to warm him with her thin arms and her thin shawl. The little girl knew they were cold, and her black eyes flashed.

She passed a boy, maybe four years old. In his hands were a few small pecans he was shelling and sharing with two younger brothers. They ate eagerly as if that was all they would have today. The little girl knew they were hungry, and again, her eyes flashed.

When she arrived at school, her teacher announced happily, "Emma, look! We have a new hook to read today."

Emma loved to read! She had read every book in the classroom! But even as she pored over the new book, she kept remembering the children she had seen that morning.

After school, she took the new book home. And read it again. And again. As she sat on the front porch reading. Maria, a neighbor about her age peeked over and asked, "What are you doing?"

"I'm reading a wonderful story! Would you like to read it, too?"

"Oh, I can't!" said Maria. "I don't know how to read. Last year, I was starting to learn the letters. But then, the weather began to warm, and the flowers began to bloom. And my family had to go far away, to pick onions."

"We picked onions, then strawberries. We picked cabbage, then cotton. We picked beets, then corn. By the time we came back, school had ended, summer had passed, and school had started again."

La muchachita de brillantes ojos negros caminaba entusiasmada hacia la escuela. Pasó una casucha sin puerta. Adentro, un bebe lloraba mientras su madre trataba de protegerlo del frió con sus brazos delgados y su rebozo muy gastado. La niña sabia que tenían frío, y sus ojos negros relampaguearon.

Ella pasó junto a un niño de quizi cuatro años, que en sus manos tenía unas nueces pequeñas que estaba pelando y compartiendo con sus hermanitos. Comían ansiosamente, como si fuera todo lo que tuvieran para ese día. La niña sabia que tenían hambre. Suspiró profundamente y otra vez destellaron sus ojos

Cuando llegó a la escuela, su maestra anunció: –¡Mira, Emma! ¡Tenemos un libro nuevo para leer hoy!

A Emma le encantaba leer. ¡Había leído todos los libros que había en el salón de clases! Pero aún mientras leía el nuevo libro, no podía dejar de pensar en los niños que había visto por la mañana.

Después de las clases, se llevó el libro nuevo a su casa. Y lo leyó otra vez. Y otra. Se encontraba sentada en la veranda de su casa, mando María, una vecinita de su edad se asomó y le preguntó: –¿Que haces?

–¡Estoy leyendo un cuento maravilloso! ¿Quieres leerlo?

–¡Oh, no puedo! –dijo Mana. –No sé leer. El año paxado estaba empezando a aprender las letras. Pero llegó el tiempo de calor y las plantas comenzaron a florecer y mi familia tuvo que irse lejos a piscar cebollas.

–Piscamos cebollas, y después fresas. Piscamos repollo, y después algodón. Piscamos betabel, y después helóte. Cuando regresamos, las clases ya habían terminado, el verano ya se había pasado y la escuela había comenzado otra vez.


Excerpted from That's Not Fair!/¡No Es Justo! by Carmen Tafolla, Sharyll Teneyuca, Terry Ybáñez. Copyright © 2008 Wings Press. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Carmen Tafolla is one of the most anthologized of all Latina poets, with poems for both adults and children appearing in more than 200 anthologies. She is the author of the Bluebonnet Award-nominated Baby Coyote and the Old Woman. Sharyll Teneyuca is a social justice lawyer and the niece of Emma Tenayuca. Terry Ybáñez is the illustrator of Christmas Tree: El Árbol de Navidad and Hairs/Pelitos. They all live in San Antonio, Texas.

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