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Literature / Esperanza Rising

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"Do not be afraid to start over."

Esperanza Rising is a Historical Fiction novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan, published in 2000.

Esperanza Ortega, the only child of a wealthy landowner, lives a charmed life on her family's ranch in Mexico. But when Esperanza's father is murdered and their ranch burns down, Esperanza and her mother Ramona flee with their servants and family friends to a migrant worker camp in California, right in the middle of The Great Depression. Missing her grandmother and her previous privileged life, unused to a life of hard work, and facing injustice after injustice, Esperanza struggles to rise above her current situation.


Tropes in this work:

  • Character Development: Esperanza goes from a rich girl scorning the "peasants" who work alongside her to a hardworking young girl who sympathizes with them.
  • Evil Uncle: Esperanza's uncle Tío Luis burns down the ranch after Esperanza's mother refuses to marry him. Even after they flee, he continues to spy on Abuelita, and something bad happening to her because of him worries Esperanza for much of the book.
  • Flower Motifs: Roses are representative of Esperanza's father Sixto and their family ranch, El Rancho de la Rosas. After the ranch burns down and they flee to America, Miguel and Alfonso save some of the roots and plant them behind the new house as a way to keep his memory alive.
  • The Great Depression: The setting. Esperanza and her family arrive in America in the 1930s and settle into a life of poverty. Oklahoma workers arriving in California fleeing the dust bowl figure heavily into the plot.
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  • Heir Club for Men: Esperanza's uncle Tío Luis gets the property after her father is murdered because it was not customary at the time to leave property to women.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: The theme of the book. Despite her difficult situation, Esperanza manages to find hope as her family and friends are reunited.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every chapter is titled after the Spanish word for either a fruit or a vegetable that figures into the plot. The titular protagonist grows up in a vineyard and spends the bulk of the novel working as a farm laborer in a migrant camp, so her life revolves around planting and harvesting crops. The first chapter takes place during the grape harvest at the family vineyard, so it's titled "Las Uvas" ("Grapes"); a later chapter has the family escaping to the United States while hiding under piles of guavas in a wooden cart, so it's titled "Las Guayavas" ("Guavas"); chapters where she takes jobs peeling potatoes and packing asparagus are titled "Las Papas" ("Potatoes") and "Los Espárragos" ("Asparagus"), respectively; a chapter where she uses an avocado salve to heal her injured hands is titled "Los Aguacates" ("Avocados"); etc.
  • Ill Girl: Esperanza's mother Ramona catches valley fever and remains dangerously ill for much of the book.
  • Meaningful Name: "Esperanza" literally means "hope", which fits with the Hope Springs Eternal theme of the book.
  • Riches to Rags: Esperanza starts out living a luxurious life on her family's ranch. Then she loses everything and is forced to live and work on a farm camp for migrant workers, which she has difficulty adjusting to.

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