Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

It's 1969 in New York's El Barrio where the residents are mostly Puerto Rican, and Rosa Serrano has decided that if there's one more thing El Barrio doesn't need, it's one more Rosa.  That's why she decided to change her name to Evelyn on her fourteenth birthday.  That's not the only thing she wants to change.  She's always worked in the bodega with her mother and step father, but now she wants in a different store, one that is a little less Puerto Rican.

Evelyn hates the way her mother always uses a "beggy" tone and decorated the house with plastic roses and plastic slip covers on the furniture, as if a few plastic roses could make the apartment look better.

That summer of 1969 is also the summer Evelyn will meet her abuela for the first time.  Where Mami is all rounded shoulders and plain dresses, Abuela is died orange hair and crazy outfits.  Soon she takes over the whole apartment with clothes, shoes, makeup, and her loud presence.

As these three generations of women frustrate each other, there is also change coming to El Barrio.  Who are these college kids who show up and start cleaning the streets and asking for social programs?  Is Mami right; are these outsiders just stirring up trouble?  Or should Evelyn listen to Abuela and join the movement?

Sonia Manzano's new book is wonderful story about the conflicts between generations and learning to accept people for who they are, but it also the story of the poor immigrants of El Barrio and the beginnings of the civil rights movements for Latino communities.

On a side note, after finishing the book I read the author bio, and discovered that Sonia Manzano played Maria on Sesame Street!  What a wonderful surprise for me to find that someone who played a role in my childhood can now play a role in my professional career and in our library!

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