Becoming Naomi León
Becoming Naomi León is a 2005 fiction, adventure, and young author's 246 page coming of age novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan about a quiet half American-half Mexican girl, whose life with her great-grandmother and younger brother is peaceful, until her mother reappears after abandoning her and her brother years earlier.
|Author||Pam Muñoz Ryan|
|September 1, 2005|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
Naomi Outlaw is a Hispanic girl who lives a carefree life with her great-grandmother, Mary Outlaw, and her deformed younger brother, Owen, in the fictional town of Lemon Tree, California. One day, Naomi and Owen's mother, Skyla, suddenly reappears after 7 years of being gone. Although initially happy to have her mother back in her life, Naomi questions the reason for Skyla's return, whilst Skyla showers Naomi with gifts, but neglects and expresses disgust towards Owen.
Mary later tells Naomi and Owen the truth, but they don't really know the truth, until the day of the Parent-Teacher Conferences which Skyla promised to attend, but didn't. That day, Naomi realized that Skyla is really an alcoholic and that her father really wanted to keep her and Owen but Skyla wouldn't let him. As things get more severe, Naomi becomes very weary of Skyla, but despite her best friend's warnings, Naomi is hesitant to warn Mary of Skyla's behavior.
However, after a seemingly regular doctor's appointment for Owen, Skyla suddenly becomes infuriated and tells Naomi that they were leaving, but Naomi knew that Skyla was taking her just so she would take care of Skyla's boyfriend, Clive's, daughter, Sapphire. Refusing to let that happen, Mary takes the kids on a whirlwind journey accompanied by their neighbors Fabiola and Bernardo Morales to the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. There they go on a quest in which Naomi is determined to find her father, Santiago. The group participate in Mexico's Los Posadas and Night of the Radishes, where Santiago arrives and reunites with his children, but he is unable to come back with Naomi and Owen to Lemon Tree.
However, with Santiago's help, Mary successfully manages to gain full guardianship of Naomi and Owen, much to Skyla's dismay, and the trio return to their peaceful life in Lemon Tree.
Naomi Soledad León Outlaw: the daughter of Santiago and Skyla, the great-granddaughter of Mary, and the sister of Owen; she is also the main protagonist and narrator of the story. Naomi is a quiet and shy but very naive Hispanic girl who has difficulty speaking up for herself and her younger brother Owen, and has lived with her brother and grandmother for most of her life. She is talented at soap carving and (as she puts it) "worrying and making lists" and also considers herself as "nobody special".
Owen Soledad León Outlaw: the son of Santiago and Skyla, the great-grandson of Mary, and the brother of Naomi. He is severely deformed, but is more cheerful and outgoing than Naomi, and enjoys wearing tape.
Mary Outlaw: Also known as "Gram", Mary is the great-grandmother and guardian of Naomi and Owen and the grandmother of Skyla. Wise and loving, she worries constantly for Naomi and Owen and loves them dearly, willing to do anything to protect them and ensure their happiness, even from her granddaughter.
Skyla Jones: the mother of Naomi and Owen, the ex-wife of Santiago, and the main antagonist in the story who suddenly reappeared in her children's life after seven years of being gone. An alcoholic, Skyla is mentally unstable and verbally and physically abuses Naomi and Owen, despite expressing favoritism towards Naomi.
Santiago León: the father of Naomi and Owen and the ex-husband of Skyla. Although absent from the majority of his children's lives, Santiago is a loving and patient man who cares for his children dearly despite their estrangement. He also is talented at carving, which Naomi inherited from him.
Kirkus Reviews wrote "Ryan’s sure-handed storytelling and affection for her characters convey a clear sense of Naomi’s triumph, as she becomes “who I was meant to be.”" and Publishers Weekly wrote "Once again, Ryan (Esperanza Rising ) crystallizes the essence of settings and characters through potent, economic prose." Common Sense Media found "Skyla a rather cardboard villain, and lessens the complexity of the situation. But the author makes up for this with the richness of the scenes in Mexico, which spring to vivid life"