Monday, August 4, 2008

The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriquez by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

Sonia is the American born daughter of Illegal immigrants. Her parents came to El Norte for opportunity – they just couldn’t make enough money to have a good life in Mexico and so have been living in the states for almost 20 years. Her beloved father works 3 jobs to take care of the family and so is hardly around. Unfortunately the rest of her family is not so dependable or respectable. Her older brother dropped out of school and his machismo is getting out of hand, her younger brothers sit around eating candy and playing video games, her pregnant mother won’t stop laying around watching telenovelas, and her drunkle (her drunk uncle) is a violent predator that has invaded their home permanently.

Sonia desperately wants to graduate high school. That would make her the first person in her family to graduate. However, Sonia is expected to put family first before anything else. That wouldn’t be anything to get upset about except that her family expects her to do absolutely everything. Cook, clean, run to the store, etc., etc., etc., while they all sit on their tushes like royalty. When she finally decides that her school work needs to come first, her mother ships her off to visit her Grandmother in Mexico eight days before the semester ends. Not an event that helps her scholastically.

Sitomer has written a story about stereotypes and how people reinforce and just as often break them. In fact, discussion of stereotypes permeates the entire story. Rasicm also factors into the story. Sonia bemoans the fact that her Mexican family holds such derogatory opinions of both Blacks and Central Americans. Unfortunately Sonia’s negative views of whites are placed into the text and are never examined. Does it seem natural that Sonia would hold these views and have deep rooted anger towards whites? Yes, absolutely. Does it seem somewhat irresponsible that Sitomer wouldn’t try to deal with them in some way? It sure did to me.

This is by no means a perfect novel. It tends to have spots where the plot slows down to a standstill as Sonia expounds on her never ending duties. It sometimes feels as though the author is using this book as a political platform. And Sonia’s love interest waxes a little too poetic for my taste. But there are also strengths. Sonia's dad, her grandmother, her cousin in Mexico. All highlights of the novel.

This is a book that is going to appeal to many Hispanic females. I believe Sonia’s problems are going to be completely relatable and that girls will enjoy reading a story about a girl who faces much of what they do everyday. I’ll definitely be recommending it to my teens despite its flaws.

This book will be published in late September.

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