Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish, and the book Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, is a wonderful story about hope and the resiliency of the human spirit. It received the Pura Belpré Award in 2001, and richly deserves every accolade.
Esperanza Ortega was the daughter of a wealthy landowner in Mexico, but when her father was killed, life changed for this young girl, her mother and her grandmother. With help from their former house servants, she and her mother fled north, to a farm labor camp in the central valley of California. Her grandmother was too ill to make the journey, so she was secreted away to a nunnery until she could build enough strength to follow.
Esperanza and her mother worked with the farm workers, and it was a difficult transition for Esperanza, who had always been pampered and well cared for. She literally didn’t know how to use a broom, but she learned quickly and became a useful and productive worker. She was a girl who “lost” everything — her father, then her home and her country. She went from wealth to poverty overnight. But she met those losses with pluck and courage, and, with the support of caring people around her, she learned what is really important in life.
I loved this book, and Esperanza. Pam Muñoz Ryan based this character on her grandmother, and I’m so glad she shared that inspirational story with us in fiction form. This is the 4th book I’ve read for Michelle’s Book Awards Challenge.