The story begins just before Esperanza’s 13th birthday. The year is 1930. Her father is a wealthy land owner in Mexico. The family lives in a beautiful home on El Rancho de las Rosas. Esperanza has the best of everything. Her servant friend Miguel calls her “Mi reina, my queen”.
Following a series of tragic events, Esperanza and her mother flee to California, leaving behind Esperanza’s grandmother, Abuelita—a very wise old woman. They settle in the San Joaquin Valley on a Mexican farm worker’s camp. Here everyone works for low wages. Esperanza finds it so very hard to accept her new life of poverty. She quickly learns how to work hard and to appreciate what she has.
Esperanza Rising is the story of survival and the love of family and friends. Though the story is fiction, it is based on Ryan’s grandmother recollections from her childhood and actually parallels her life in many ways. Ryan discusses how her grandmother was the inspiration for the book and includes historical facts about her grandmother’s recollections from childhood. Some fun things at the back of the story include how to make Hibiscus Flower Punch, yarn dolls, and a discussion of the many proverbs interspersed throughout the story. The author additionally connects the harvesting of vegetables and fruits to each chapter title in the book.
Esperanza Rising is an easy read and a heartwarming story for children and adults. Its content leads to many historical and cultural discussion questions as well as an introduction to the Spanish language.