Overview

WANTING TO BELONG. WANTING TO GO HOME. LOVE. REGRET. FAMILY LEGENDS. DREAMS. REVENGE. ENGLISH. SPANISH.
This eclectic, gritty, and groundbreaking collection of short monologues features twenty-one of the most respected Latino authors writing today, including Sandra Cisneros, Oscar Hijuelos, Esmeralda Santiago, and Gary Soto. Their fictional narratives give voice to what it's like to be a Latino teen in America. These voices are yearning. These voices are angry. These voices ...
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Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino Identity

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Overview

WANTING TO BELONG. WANTING TO GO HOME. LOVE. REGRET. FAMILY LEGENDS. DREAMS. REVENGE. ENGLISH. SPANISH.
This eclectic, gritty, and groundbreaking collection of short monologues features twenty-one of the most respected Latino authors writing today, including Sandra Cisneros, Oscar Hijuelos, Esmeralda Santiago, and Gary Soto. Their fictional narratives give voice to what it's like to be a Latino teen in America. These voices are yearning. These voices are angry. These voices are, above all else, hopeful. These voices are America.
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Editorial Reviews

Horn Book Magazine

"While Laura Amy Schlitz introduced younger readers to voices from a medieval village in her recent Newbery Medal winner, Carlson, editor of the bilingual poetry anthology Cool Salsa (rev. 11/94), returns here with a superb collection of contemporary voices from the Latino community. All the contributors are Latino, and a few, such as Gary Soto and Sandra Cisneros, should already be familiar to young adults. While there is quite a range of style and content in these vignettes, they all evince pride in a cultural heritage that celebrates faith and tradition, food and language, and the importance of family."

VOYA - Leslie Wolfson
The title of this collection of poems, essays, short stories, and monologues is at first misleading. One expects the teen-oriented selections to be biographical, written by teens for other teens. In fact, each piece is fictional and has been written by several adult Latino authors. Two of the most famous, Sandra Cisneros and Gary Soto, are well known in young adult literature. Others will not be as familiar to most readers. With twenty-two stories in all, they are written in varying degrees of "giving voice to what it's like to be a Latino teen in America," as the book jacket proclaims. Mujeriego by Michael Mejias for instance, sounds like an actual teen speaking as he sits in custody for burning down a South Bronx social club and killing thirty-three people. Susan Guevara's realistic Last Night I Wanted to Die also explores a teen girl's contemplation of suicide. Other selections do not ring as true in terms of capturing the teen voice. The topics covered in the selections vary: teen pregnancy, crushes, immigrating to the United States, abusive fathers, evil spells, and how to cook a pig. Overall the subjects are serious, although a few have a humorous bent. The book also includes black-and-white photographs, interior illustrations, and short bios of each author. Reviewer: Leslie Wolfson
School Library Journal

Gr 6-10

As in Moccasin Thunder (HarperCollins, 2005) and Red Hot Salsa (Holt, 2005), Carlson has drawn from both established and new writers, focusing on finding Latino voices that speak to contemporary readers. Collected here are poems and short stories whose subjects range from finding God in the clouds to a lust for eating chicken, from someone's fingers on the hole in your jeans in a crowded café to someone asking, once again, "So, where are you from?" This collection sparkles more than its predecessors because of its dynamic design, featuring black-and-white photographs and line illustrations incorporated with the text in a collagelike magazine layout. Few pieces are longer than a spread or two, and the entire package encourages endless browsing, flipping, and double-dipping. Too bad this is a hardcover-only release, and too bad someone thought it needed the odd synopses that float like loud subtitles, prosaically describing and overburdening the pieces. Why does the title "Last Week I Wanted to Die" need a caption that reads: "A girl, plagued by thoughts of not fitting in, contemplates the meaning of death"? Why diminish "Poultrymorphosis" with the explanation "A boy describes eating his favorite food," thereby soddening the appetite? But forgive this book its overzealousness-it still sings, and nudges its readers to do the same.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA

From the Publisher
"While Laura Amy Schlitz introduced younger readers to voices from a medieval village in her recent Newbery Medal winner, Carlson, editor of the bilingual poetry anthology Cool Salsa (rev. 11/94), returns here with a superb collection of contemporary voices from the Latino community. All the contributors are Latino, and a few, such as Gary Soto and Sandra Cisneros, should already be familiar to young adults. While there is quite a range of style and content in these vignettes, they all evince pride in a cultural heritage that celebrates faith and tradition, food and language, and the importance of family." — Horn Book Magazine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416984450
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 8/26/2008
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 12 years
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Lori Marie Carlson is the author of two novels, two landmark bilingual poetry anthologies, and many other young adult and children's books. Oscar Hijuelos is a first-generation Cuban American and the first Latino to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He has written six novels, the most recent of which is A Simple Habana Melody. They live in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt


EDITOR'S NOTE

by Lori Marie Carlson

THE TEENAGE YEARS ARE YEARS OF EMOTION, ALL KINDS OF EMOTION.

Love, hate, betrayal, hilarity, loss, longing, feeling mad, feeling sad...these are but some of the emotional states given voice by accomplished Latino authors -- among them Esmeralda Santiago, Melinda Lopez, Trinidad Sánchez Jr., Oscar Hijuelos, Sandra Cisneros, and Quiara Alegría Hudes -- in this book. In a sense Voices in First Person is a collection of monologues that can be read aloud in the classroom -- in theater workshops, social studies, English language labs, ESL, literature courses -- or in the privacy of your room, at a community center, in a field of flowers, in the basement of a church, or on the street. But I think this collection of narratives, some short and others long, can also be considered a multitestimonial of lives in inner cities, rural communities, suburbs, and villages. These pieces speak truths -- sometimes hard truths -- about the incredibly diverse life experiences of youth in America today, Latino or otherwise. With their sometimes biting potency and bouncing lyricism, they are earthy and powerful. They grab at the heart and the mind because they say it like it is. And there is something here for everyone. These fictional narratives are proclamations of pride, cries of despair, funny reflections on food and family, angry shouts, fearful thoughts of giving birth, revelations about God, whispers of hopelessness, declarations of violence, admissions of passion, love, and hope.

RITUAL

by Claudia Quiroz Cahill

A GIRL IMAGINES THE HOMELAND OF HER MOTHER.

Mami, come sit down. The day is over. Let's smile a bit. Do you think you'll have that flying dream again? The one where you open all the glittering windows, float out above the rose-painted casitas, the opaque trees, the soft llama grass, to Bolivia, back to your home, before I was born. I can only imagine the sound of flutes, the sound of women singing. Ancient song. Andean villancicos. A metronome ticks in my chest. Bolivia, Bolivia, the Spanish sounds, Bolivia, my tongue snails over, Bolivia, Bolivia, making my teeth clean. In a room full of notes I rise up, good as new.

RECLAIM YOUR RIGHTS AS A CITIZEN OF HERE, HERE

by Michele Serros

A GIRL OF MEXICAN ANCESTRY WHO WAS BORN IN CALIFORNIA IS FED UP WITH PEOPLE ASKING HER WHERE SHE IS FROM.

I can't get by one week without a white person asking me the Question:

"So, where are you from?"

"From Oxnard," I answer.

"No, I mean originally."

"Oh, Saint John's Hospital,the old one over on F Street."

"No, you know what I mean!"

No, what do you mean? And why is it important to you and why do you really need to know? When Latinos ask me where I'm from, it really doesn't bother me. I can't help but feel some sort of familiar foundation is being sought and a sense of community kinship is forming. "Your family's from Cuernavaca? And what? They own the IHOP on Via San Robles? Wow, we really need to do lunch sometime!"

But when whites ask me the Question, it's just a reminder that I'm not like them, I don't look like them, which must mean I'm not from here. Here in California, where I was born, where my parents were born, and where even my great-grandmothers were born. I can't help but feel that whites always gotta know the answer to everything. It's like they're uncomfortable not being able to categorize things they're unfamiliar with, and so they need to label everything as quickly and neatly as possible. Sometimes when I'm asked the Question, I like to lie and make up areas within the Latin world from where I supposedly originated:

WHITE PERSON #1. So, where did you say you're from?

ME. From Enchiritova, it's actually a semipopulated islet off the coast of Bolivia.

WHITE PERSON #2. Yep! I knew it! I knew it! Kevin, didn't I tell you I thought she was an Enchirito!

WHITE PERSON #1. Tag her!

SPENDING MONEY

by Gary Soto

A BOY, AGE FOURTEEN, IS HOLDING A RAKE. A FEW LEAVES ARE SCATTERED AROUND HIM.

Ben Franklin said something like "A penny saved is a penny earned." I think a lot of people lived by this rule. Let me go back three days.... Uncle Joe was waking up on his couch, poor old Uncle with more hair in his ears than on his head. I walked up the steps, looked in the window of his little house, and I caught him sleeping, two sweaters on 'cause he's so cheap the thought of body heat escaping makes him shiver. I called, "Uncle," and he rose straight like a corpse in a coffin, spooky like. He rubbed his eyes, looked at me, and said, "You were supposed to be here this morning!" You see, my mom and my aunts had told me if I was a really good boy, I should do volunteer work -- work for the family, is what they meant. (Pause.) So Uncle let me in the house, real quick because he didn't want the furnace heat to escape -- he was tight there, too. He let me in the house to get to the backyard -- no gates on the side of his house 'cause that cost money. But first, in the kitchen, he swallowed three prunes like goldfish and said, "You can have one if you want." He thrust a nasty-looking jar at me, and I said, "Nah, Unc, I had my Cap'n Crunch this morning. I'm here to work." (Pause.) So then out in the yard he was asking if he had ever told me the story 'bout how the tips of his boots got run over by a German tank in World War II. I told him, "Yeah, lots of times, and the one about making a broom out of twigs in 1932." All mad, he turned his dentures upside down like fangs. He said, "I don't know how your teeth stay in your face, always talking that way. Do you talk like that with your friends?" I almost said, "Yeah, about the same as you talking 'bout the war." Then those prunes made him fart, and I jumped away and got to work stirring up the leaves for some air sweeter than the wind he just released. He went away, and I raked the yard clean, then poked an orange down from the tree. Uncle came out happy and stood on the back porch. He had put on yet another sweater and righted his dentures so his fangs were gone. "Pretty days don't cost nothing," old Stingy quipped. I twirled the rake and muttered, "That's why you never had a girlfriend. They cost money." He made his bushy eyebrows go up and down, and said, "I didn't hear what you said, but I know it was something smart-alecky." He told me that he was in such a good mood that nothing was going to make him mad, especially a snotty teenager like me. He then started telling me stuff like when to plant tomato seeds, and I made a thousand faces to show how interested I was. He gave me three quarters for my work, and I said, "Gee, Unc, I just might go buy me some tomato seeds." "What?" he asked, and I answered, "Nothing, Unc." Then, with one hand on the rail, he climbed down the porch steps, farting every other one. I backed away and crumpled a leaf in my hand for some neutralizing odor. He gave me a look and said, "Nephew, how far do you think you'll go from the money I've given you over the years?" I looked around the yard, with a smirk playing on my face, and I said, "Maybe to that rosebush there, or far as the orange tree." With that, Uncle turned his dentures upside down again like fangs. He twisted open my palm and rolled those quarters back into the leathery pouch of his tightfisted hand. (Pause.) I don't know who's older, Ben Franklin or my uncle in three sweaters.

Text copyright © 2008 by Lori Marie Carlson

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Table of Contents


Editor's Note

Ritual

by Claudia Quiroz Cahill

Reclaim Your Rights as a Citizen of Here, Here

by Michele Serros

Spending Mone

by Gary Soto

I Stand at the Crosswalk

by Esmeralda Santiago

Angel's Monologue

by Gwylym Cano

José

by Caridad de la Luz

The Evil Eye

by Raquel Valle Sentíes

Poultrymorphosis

by Oscar Hijuelos

Last Week I Wanted to Die

by Susan Guevara

I'm Mad at My Father

by Trinidad Sánchez Jr.

Translating Things

by Marjorie Agosín

Mujeriego

by Michael Mejias

Birth

by Walkiris Portes

Me American

by Jesse Villegas

My First American Summer

by Lissette Mendez

God Smells Like a Roast Pig

by Melinda Lopez

Oh, Beautiful?

by René Pedraza del Prado

Futureboy

by Juan Felipe Herrera

Emily

by Elaine Romero

Sylvia

by Elaine Romero

Barrio ABCs

by Quiara Alegría Hudes

Darius and the Clouds

by Sandra Cisneros

Biographical Notes

Copyright

Acknowledgments

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

    recommendable

    Voices in First Peron by Lori Carlson is a interesting book from a different perspective on life. the book is composed of numerous stories of hispanics and latinos having a tough time making the transition to being in america.
    Some of the stories are written entirely in spanish,which can be hard to understand, aside from the two stories that do this, the rest of the book was composed of stories from people who at first, just seemed paranoid of their surroundings, and other times Voices shows how prejudice people in this country can be to new comers in this case, the book makes a connection. Nobody likes to be stared at "a girl watching people watch her" would be terrifying for someone at the age of eight and new to the country,. Voices does have its happy and sad stories, one about a bout learning his families secret recipe for chicken another about a criminal who was defending his brothers honor with murder and hatred. needless to say I did enjoy these stories of family pride.
    The people in this book had to deal with a lot of prejudice throughout their lives just because of their nationality. This book tells the untold stories of success and failure of their attempts to make it in america. Most people in the book are well known writers, one of the more Famous; Gary Soto writes more than one except in the book and tells how he is proud of his heritage and family. Gary Soto is one of the many in this book who had great success.
    In the end I would recommend this book to anyone who has a interest in what it would be like it immigrate to america, anyone else i wouldn't recommend this book to. Though the book was good it wasn't great.

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  • Posted December 11, 2010

    Recommended- you should read it!

    Voices In First Person is a book that i would say has many lessons included in it's context. The type of reader who i would suggest this book to is a person who is deeply interested in moral lessons that would impact your life and also for someone who has immigrated and finds life to be difficult at that point in time. The general reason i would give this book three stars is because i found this book not being very effective on my life but thats just because its me. The situations in this book would be more effective on people who just moved and are new somewhere. I have never moved, so the story didnt really move me but i can see it moving someone who has trouble in a new enviornment. If i could read books by some of these authors i would, they had very interesting tales in here. Some of the stories i liked very much and some were very plain. Overall i would say that the general book is a touching tale about people's struggles they faced when they moved into the United States. People who find gripping tales about publicity struggles, I highly recommend this book to you as i believe you would find this very interesting. The photographer, Manuel Rivera-Ortiz has some of the best photographs i believe because of the way they associate with the text. Lori Marie Carlson also uses words that make the stories come to life and seem like they're happening right before your eyes. The different stories in this book popped out to me and i was hooked on mostly the stories by the kids my age. I felt fortunate that i did not have to go through the rough times that those kids and people different ages go through moving to the United States. I also liked how the people still kept their faith and they were able to remember their heritage. My favorite selection was "Reclaiming Your Rights As A Citizen of Here" by Michele Serros. It showed how she was affected when people asked her if she was a Latina and she reacted with anger. Another thing i did not like to much was that the books "reflections" only showed anger, confusion, and harsh treatment. I felt like there should have been some happiness in this book. Overall I would recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Posted December 4, 2008

    VOICES

    Voices in First Person: Reflections on Latino Identity is a very newly published book of short stories written in the point of view from teenage Latinos that are just trying to live their life as other Americans here in the United States are. This book of personal monologues was put together with stories from twenty-one of Latino authors from today¿s literature including Gary Soto, Sandra Cisneros, and many, many more.<BR/> Dealing with many issues that are common in today¿s society, Voices in First Person really gives a great insight on just what it is like to be a teenager faced with things like violence, wanting to belong, regret, love, and the hardships of growing up in a country that is not your native home.<BR/> The thing that I enjoyed most about this book was that it was not focused so much on the grammar and sentence structure as most books that you read are. It was word for word what a teenager of this generation would sound like talking. There were also some parts where the monologue was in Spanish. I think that gave the characters in the book more personality. They are not from this country so seeing just how they are uncensored really shows how tough it really may be.<BR/> By reading this book, I learned just how hard it is to grow up in a country not like your own, where there is a lot of racism, and where people treat you a lot different because of your heritage. I would recommend this book to any teenager of this generation, especially if they are not Latino, so they too can see what life is really like from someone else¿s point of view.

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