Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Under the Feet of Jesus

348273With the same audacity with which John Steinbeck wrote about migrant worker conditions in The Grapes of Wrath and T.C. Boyle in The Tortilla Curtain, Viramontes (The Moths and Other Stories) presents a moving and powerful vision of the lives of the men, women, and children who endure a second-class existence and labor under dangerous conditions in California's fields.   This first novel tells the story a young girl, Estrella, and her Latino family as they struggle with arduous farm labor during the summer months, and still manage to latch onto the hope of a liberating future.  Viramontes graces the page with poetic touch, artfully describing poverty conditions and bringing to the reader a panoramic view of social consciousness and unforgettable characters.

*May Contain Spoilers*

Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes is one of those books that slowly reveals its secrets to you. With a surface reading of this novel, readers will witness one migrant family's summer experience at a new place to work and the daughter's budding friendship with another migrant boy that is cut short because of illness. But with just a surface read, readers won't get this book. It demands a deeper look. 

Estrella and her family are migrant workers. Though they are United States citizens they are treated as immigrants, with disrespect and disregard. Estrella doesn't really think of fighting for more until she meets Alejo, a boy who dreams of going to college and living the American Dream. Though their friendship seems off-kilter at times, Alejo helps Estrella realize that there is a separation between her and society based on her language, her skin color, her clothing, and the dirt beneath her nails.When Alejo gets sick with no family around to take care of him, his life falls into the hands of Estrella and her mother, Petra. With the last of their money, they try to take him to the doctor and the harsh treatment they receive and the uncaring attitude is appalling. 

Readers of this book will take part in a bilingual experience that challenges the differences that people make between races, careers, and ethnicities. They'll connect with Estrella and her family based on their humanity and the common ground all human beings share. They'll be slightly disturbed at the treatment Estrella receives, stuck between her family and the way society dictates the American way of life. I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoy learning more about different social groups, historical events, and those who want to expand the boundaries of social norms. 

Rating: 3/5 Cups

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