Saturday, May 29, 2010
From the first time I heard about Matt de la Peña's Mexican Whiteboy when I was flipping through a teaching catalogue back in January, I was intrigued. I have always been interested in identity, and I was especially interested in this particular book because the main character Danny is bi-racial, just as my girls are.
Throughout his summer, Danny has a lot to sift through. Based on the back cover, I was expecting certain themes. It reminded me of the scene on Selena when her dad says something along the lines of it being exhausting trying to please everyone, trying to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans (I know I have the full quote transcribed somewhere because I included it in some of my undergraduate assignments). Then that movie clip always makes me think of Selena's brother, AB Quintanilla's introduction to his song Sshh!!, talking about the struggles of not being seen as a real Mexican because he was born in the US instead of Mexico.
As expected, the book did include these topics that always fascinate me, but there was a lot that was unexpected. Danny has decided to spend the summer in National City with his Dad's side of the family. He resents his mom, as well as anything that comes from her side, including his whiteness and his English. Danny barely talks because even though he never learned Spanish, he has decided that he does not want to use his English either. He wants to feel like he is a part of his dad's side of the family that he loves so much. Another layer of Danny is that he is an amazing baseball player, both as a hitter and a pitcher. The only problem is that whenever he feels pressure he loses all control. Then there's the letters he writes to his father, the letters that skew reality, trying to lure his father back into his life. While I am writing this post I am thinking of all the different levels in the book that created depth in Danny's character. I could keep on writing with all the details that are revealed about Danny later on in the book, but I would not want to give too much away. After all, it was a pleasure discovering them as I read, always being surprised as I flipped through the book.
During the book, there are times when it leaves Danny and follows Uno a neighborhood boy who seemed like an unlikely friend at the beginning of the book but who ended up having more in common with Danny than I initially imagined. It was interesting to see their lives juxtaposed, as well as how they would effect each other. Danny's cousin Sofia was also a significant character.
While reading I could not help to think of Tyrell since I read them so close together. While they both have mature content, I was more satisfied with Danny's growth throughout Mexican Whiteboy, than with Tyrell's in Booth's novel. Because of that level of growth and discovery I am leaning toward feeling comfortable adding it to my classroom library in the fall when students return. Also, the language and sexual content was not as frequent in Mexican Whiteboy. I also can't wait to buy and read copies of de la Peña's other books, We Were Here and Ball Don't Lie.