Book Beginnings quote:
Babygirl doesn't even cry when I suck my teeth and undo her braid for the fourth time. If anything, I'm on the verge of tears, since at this rate we're both going to be late.Friday 56 quote:
Ever Since Tyrone, I don't really talk to boys like that anymore. Boys at this age will say whatever they need to say to get what they want, and I've learned to trust pretty words even less than a pretty face.Summary: Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Puerto Rican teen, got pregnant her freshman year in high school. Since that time she has had to make a lot of tough decisions. But she always tries to do what is right for her daughter, herself, and for her abuela, her grandmother. Unlike many teen mothers, Emoni has remained in school, works part-time to help with the bills, and tries to keep up her grades by going to tutoring. She also loves to cook. In fact she has a real talent for selecting the perfect spices to make food dishes even more delicious. She dreams of being a chef someday but is also grounded in the practical reality. After graduation she will need to find a way to support her daughter and herself.
Review: Emoni is a refreshing character---a teen who gets pregnant yet one who holds her head up high and refuses to be ashamed of her daughter, whom she loves dearly. She is practical and yet exotic. She can cook and create delicious food and is very driven to make something of herself without hanging onto a boy to do it. Tyrone, Emma's (Babygirl) father, does play a bit of a role in raising his daughter, but by and large, Emoni is responsible for her daughter's welfare, with help from her abuela. The story of With the Fire on High takes place over a whole year, Emoni's senior year of high school, where she really has to make a lot of decisions about the future. Is it practical to pursue a dream or should she just find a job so she can support her little family?
I encourage you to watch this little one minute clip of an interview with the author (below) where she explains why she wanted to write a book about a teen mom. You'll get a good sense of how different her approach to the subject is. She wanted to challenge the conversation and the notions we have about teen pregnancy and motherhood. She wanted to move beyond the pregnancy part of the story to the "We're here. Keep going." That aspect is what makes this book really special. (Here is the link in case the video disappears again. Elizabeth Acevedo Speaks.)
I also enjoyed the book's format with short chapters, which I think makes it very appealing to teen readers. The story moves along quickly never getting bogged down too long in a pity-party. And then there is the food, sometimes even recipes. Oh man, I wanted to taste everything.
The audiobook is narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo, the author, and she did a brilliant job reading her own work. I enjoyed the listening experience very much.
Can you tell that I am pretty high on this book? I highly recommend it to you and imagine that we will see this one earn an award or two when book award season rolls around in January.