Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America edited by Margarita Longoria. Philomel Books, Penguin Random House, 2021. 9780593204979
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Short stories
What did you like about the book? This anthology collects works by well known writers, such as Francisco X. Stork and Guadalupe García McCall, balanced with contributions from newer authors. The theme is growing up Mexican-American and most of the pieces focus on adolescence, including an incredibly touching story by Rubén Degollado, about a young girl experiencing homelessness who gets a quinceañera, thanks to her principal and teachers. Also memorable for me, a first-person narrative by Dominic Carrillo about an impromptu slam poetry performance on a cross-town bus entitled “Ghetto Is Not An Adjective”. Other stories address growing up gay, microaggressions, family relationships, and school discipline. Longoria has included a few essays that I found fascinating, especially one by Trinidad Gonzales about working at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife in the 1990s and another by Alex Temblador about the pain of not being fluent in Spanish. The collection also includes comics and poems. Overall, the quality of the pieces was consistently high and the variety made it easy to find several things to love. An About the Authors section provides short bios for all the contributors.
Anything you didn’t like about it? The pieces could have used more setting up; short intros to each selection by the authors would have been incredibly helpful, perhaps with the biographical information embedded. I had a hard time figuring out which contributions were memoirs and which were fictional. No matter the value of anthologies, I do find them a hard sell with teen readers. I didn’t love either of the graphic contributions of Xavier Garza, who is better known for his picture books.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grades 8 and up. Many of these pieces could work really well in a library book group or an English class. Readers with an interest in authentic voices will find many compelling stories here and the commonalities of the immigrant experience will be eye-opening.
Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries.
Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, realistic if you genre-fy.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If your library is looking to expand LatinX offerings, I would recommend it.
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: August 25, 2021