Admittedly, when I heard that “Maria” from Sesame Street had written a young adult novel, this is the image that came to mind:
Of course, after thinking about it, I remembered that “Maria” is a role and that the character’s real name is Sonia Manzano. My mistake is just a measure of how real the Sesame Street family is to me – even at this age! Manzano’s novel, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, is wonderful. I finished reading it a few hours ago and after adding it to Inly’s Middle School summer reading list, I began thinking about which students will enjoy it the most.
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is about a young girl’s political coming of age in a Puerto Rican Harlem neighborhood. Rosa Maria Evelyn del Carmen Serrano is 14-years-old in the summer of 1969, the year she is claiming her independence. First, she asks to be called Evelyn so that she can distinguish herself from the many other Marias. Secondly, she decides not to work in her mother and stepfather’s bodega, and instead takes a job in another local shop. But that’s just the beginning. First, her grandmother arrives, complicating the relationship between Evelyn and her mother. And then a group of Puerto Rican Nationalists and social activists (the Young Lords) begin advocating for political and social reform. As Evelyn becomes more interested in the Young Lords, her grandmother teaches her the truth about her family’s role in the Puerto Rican Nationalist movement.
Recommend Manzano’s novel to middle school-age readers who are interested in 20th century history and the role of activism in shaping public opinion. Pair this book with Frances Temple’s novel, A Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti – another excellent novel about social justice movements and the evolution of political consciousness.