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Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising is a young adult historical fiction novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Esperanza Rising
Esperanza Rising cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorPam Muñoz Ryan
TranslatorRegina Allentoff
IllustratorJoe Cepeda
CountryAguascalientes, Mexico
GenreHistorical Fiction
Published2000 Scholastic
Media typePrint (paperback)+ (hardcover)
Pages259 plus authors notes
LC ClassPZ7.R9553 Es 2000


Plot summaryEdit

Esperanza Ortega was a very wealthy girl who could get anything she would desire, alongside a loving mother and father. One day, her father, and some of his men were suddenly killed by bandits while they were out working on the family's ranch in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Esperanza's father had intended to leave everything to his wife, Ramona, and Esperanza. However, the family's lawyer informs them that a loophole in the will means that the ranch, their greatest source of income, will go to Señor Ortega's step brother, Luis Ortega, whom Esperanza calls Tío Luis. Luis just so happens to be a suspect in Señor Ortega's murder (papa). He plans to dive into politics and feels that Ramona, who is a beloved local socialite, would look good by his side. Luis offers to marry Ramona but she refuses, and in response he issues a warning that Ramona and Esperanza will be in danger if she does not comply.

Their ranch later burns during fire caused by Tío Luis and he returns and re-offers his wedding proposal. Ramona disruptively wants to say no but she says yes because she wants to spare everyone's life, under the condition that he rebuilds the mansion and sends her money and a wagon to visit her mother, Abuelita. Esperanza openly tells him she dislikes him, and he says the moment he becomes her stepfather, he will send her to a boarding school. Later on, Ramona tells Esperanza that she is not planning to marry him, and plans to escape to America. With the help of Abuelita, Alfonso, Miguel, and Hortensia (all servants for Esperanza), they trick Tío Luis to give Ramona money and necessities, and escape with the help of their loyal servants to cross the border. They leave Abuelita with her sisters because of her injured ankle. Abuelita promises to return to them after she heals. Despite what happened, Esperanza and her family must migrate to the United States. Unfortunately, they move during the Great Depression. Now, Esperanza learns to face conflicts and rise above them. Ramona and Esperanza live in a poor Mexican labor camp in Arvin, California with their former servants and their family. Ramona adjusts to a poor life, but Esperanza's attempts to hold on to her memories are laughed upon by the poor children, especially a migrant girl named Marta who was very rude to her. Many terrible things happen, but with help from Esperanza's family, she learns to face her challenges.

Ramona, along with their former servants, works in the fields, while Esperanza stays home with her servants' cousins (Isabel, a young girl, and Pepe and Lupe, both babies). When a dust storm occurs, Mama gets sick (with Valley fever) and must ultimately move to a hospital. Unable to afford the hospital bills, Esperanza gets a job cutting out potato eyes. Throughout the seasons, Esperanza takes on ever-changing jobs to get a bus ticket for Abuelita, pay for the hospital bills, and take care of the household. However, upon learning that Ramona is better, and Esperanza has saved enough for Abuelita, Esperanza finds that Miguel, her servants' son and childhood friend, has stolen her money. Days later, Miguel sends a message saying he has a surprise for the family at a bus stop. Esperanza, Alfonso, and Hortensia go to the bus stop as told. They then learn that Miguel, rather than seeking a railroad job in northern California as he claimed, has used the money to go to Mexico and get Abuelita. The story ends exactly one year after the death of Esperanza's father, with the three families gathering together to celebrate Esperanza's fifteenth birthday. Esperanza's life is turned upside down, but she goes through and learns that changes can be good and sometimes surprises happen when ever they were down. Esperanza was once again with her beloved ones and was happy.

Background InformationEdit

American shops from Oklahoma (called Okies) were often hostile toward Mexicans because they felt they were taking away their jobs. Mexican migrant laborers would work for much lower pay, so employers would much tension between the migrant workers on the fields. Some felt that their conditions were unlivable, and they deserved much better, so they began to protest and fight for what they believed. Still, others refused to join the protest in fear that they would be fired. In the 1920s and 1930s (about the time story takes place) California remained about 86% white. Most of these people were those who owned the land, while the 36,800 workers, many of whom were Mexicans, did not. She also had to adjust to a new life in California while not knowing how to clean.

Critical receptionEdit

Along with its Best Books citation, Publishers Weekly gave Esperanza Rising a starred review, citing its "lyrical, fairy tale - like style". It praised the way "Ryan poetically conveys Esperanza's ties to the land by crafting her story to the rhythms of the seasons" and the fact that "Ryan fluidly juxtaposes world events... with one family's will to survive".[1] Kirkus Reviews disliked the "epic tone, characters that develop little and predictably, and... romantic patina". However it also found that the "style is engaging, her characters appealing", ultimately saying that the story "bears telling to a wider audience".[2]

Children's Literature praised Esperanza Rising and suggested that it "would be a great choice for a multicultural collection".[3] The book has been incorporated into school curriculum in literature, social studies, and Spanish.[4] The University of Missouri has a detailed literature unit available online, including maps, photos and links to other resources.[5] Berkeley High School used recordings of the book with its English as a Second Language students in an Earphone English group. They found that Esperanza Rising doesn't just appeal to students who, like Esperanza, have emigrated from Mexico, but "also to those who have moved here after losing their fathers to violence in the former Yugoslavia".[6]


  1. ^ "Children's Review: Esperanza Rising". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  2. ^ "Kirkus Reviews: Esperanza Rising". Kirkus reviews. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  3. ^ "Barnes and Noble Review: Esperanza Rising". More About This Book: Editorial Reviews. Barnes and Noble. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  4. ^ Boccuzzi-Reichert, Angela (May 2005). "A Book Club for Teachers". School Library Journal. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  5. ^ "eThemes". Literature: "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan. University of Missouri.
  6. ^ Goldsmith, Francisca (May 2002). "Earphone English". School Library Journal.