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Selected Reviews of "Reaching Out"
conflicts are explored as Jiménez takes the reader from his family's
dilapidated migrant farm camp to the beautiful gardens and buildings on the
The action of
the story builds to the climax, where Francisco's internal conflicts of guilt
are intensified. When he learns that his father has suffered a nervous
breakdown and returned to
Jiménez infuses this story of his early adult years with memories of his childhood and the themes of extreme poverty experienced by his family and other migrant farm-working families. In doing so, he realistically portrays the poor conditions of his family's life, but avoids stereotypes by not generalizing poverty across the entire Mexican-American culture. While some of Francisco's problems seem to be solved by Anglo-Americans, it is his own resilience, perseverance, self-reflection, and genuine good-nature that help him resolve the conflicts he faces. The range and complexity of these conflicts are depicted authentically and not handled superficially. Authentic aspects of Mexican and Mexican-American culture represented in Jiménez's novel include the importance of religion and family, mutual cooperation within the family as each member contributes to the family's welfare, respect for elderly members of the family, the expectation that children be respectful, the rewarding of cleverness and sharing, and the punishing of greed and evil actions. The natural use of the Spanish language in the story also enhances the cultural authenticity of the text. The book's translation pattern effectively integrates the use of Spanish in conversations. Most of the Spanish is literally translated, but a monolingual reader is able to use the context of the story to infer or predict the meaning of the words that are not translated. Because Jiménez has both academic and life knowledge of the Spanish language, the reader trusts that the language was used correctly by this bilingual author.
Jiménez retells his experiences in a genuine, simple voice, without excess sentimentality; however, this does not keep the reader from feeling his pain and pride and holding hope in our hearts for his success. Reaching Out is an honest, well-crafted memoir, deserving of its 2009 Pura Belpré honor as a book that "portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience." The story can be read alone or as part of a series of Jiménez's other notable books, including The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child (1999), Breaking Through (2002), and La Mariposa (2000)."