Monday, March 3, 2014

"Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass"

Some books take me a while to process.  I’ll read them, and then I’ll sit on my couch in a perpetual state of zoned-out, hoping the pieces will all fit together in my mind.  I find I don’t want to read another book or do anything else until I can get all my feelings straight about this book.  Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (published 2013) by Meg Medina is one of those books.  I know I like it, but I’m still working through all my emotions surrounding this book.  Since it’s a snow day, I don’t want to waste these unanticipated extra hours to do work.  So, I’m going to use this blog post as an attempt to unscramble my thoughts into a coherent review of this captivating, incredibly-written book.

                16-year-old Piedad Sanchez—Piddy—has had her life upended.  Her best friend Mitzi moved to a better neighborhood, is going to a private school, and acting different from the way she has acted her entire life.  Piddy’s mother has gotten tired of their home, and has moved Piddy and herself to a new neighborhood.  Her dad left before she was even born, and Piddy’s mom and her mom’s best friend, Lila, have burned every trace of him that ever existed.  The only thing she has is a name, and it just isn’t enough for her.  Piddy is now going to DJ High School, and things are not going well.  We find in the opening line that “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.”  Seeing as she has no idea who Yaqui Delgado is, Piddy does not understand the trouble that is coming her way.  Apparently, Piddy’s curves have gotten the eye of a few boys, and though she is Latina, her light skin does not sit well with the other Latina girls at her new school.  Throughout this novel, we follow Piddy as she deals with bullying, family, and growing up in our country today.

                This book is the 2014 winner of the Pura Belpre award.  According to the America Library Association’s webpage, “The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.”  I feel ashamed to say this, but I don’t know much about Latino culture.  For example, I had to look up the difference between Latino and Latina just to write this blog, and I still might not even use it correctly.  Reading this book, I got a glimpse into a world that is the life of many living in our country today.  I enjoyed trying to use context clues to figure out the Spanish words in the text, and came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to understand them all.  Our protagonist’s mother comes from Cuba, and I found out new things I had never known, like the fact that Cubans have to enter a state-run lottery in order to come to this country.  Meg Medina does a wonderful job of giving a voice to a culture that makes up a great deal of our country, and yet is underrepresented in literature today.

                Although this book won an award for being a book that best portrays Latino cultural experiences, it is also a book that discusses the very real issues surrounding bullying in high school today.  Piddy’s experiences and reactions felt so real throughout the whole book.  When this girl starts to bully her, she doesn’t know what to do.  She doesn’t say anything to anyone, even the teachers who like her.  One line I really loved was when she says, “Fear is my new best friend.  It stands at my elbow in chilly silence.”  As the bullying intensifies, Piddy begins to stop doing her schoolwork and she stops going to school.  There are so many people around her that care about her, and yet she won’t open up to anyone.  Her mother, her mother’s best friend, and the teachers at school are all there for her to open up, and yet she just won’t.  I find this to be a very real depiction of a child who is being bullied.  No matter what Piddy does, things will get worse for her.  If she tells, there will be repercussions.  If she doesn’t do anything, the bullying still continues.  She feels she can’t win in this situation, no matter what she does.

                Piddy’s reactions seem real, but unfortunately so do the other children in the story.  The “best” friend she made at DJ (I use the term “best” very loosely here) really doesn’t do anything to help her.  The friend, Darlene, begs her not to be brought into it as a witness.  When a video is posted online of Piddy, everyone watches it, and no one does anything to help her.  I do believe that there are many wonderful children out there that will stick up for others, but when it comes to true bullying, I also feel that many children are too scared of the consequences they will face for speaking up.  I won’t ruin the ending, but I will say that the ending felt appropriate.  In a realistic fiction novel, I don’t want some fantasy ending.  Meg Medina didn’t try to give us a sugary sweet, everyone-is-happy ending: she gave us the one that would have most likely happened.

                I headed over to Meg Medina’s blog today, just to get a look at the other things she writes.  Besides finding out that she lives in Richmond (yay!), I was so interested by her latest blog.  I will give you a quick thought here, but you really should go check it out (click here to do so).  She brings up the fact that the day after the ALA announced their book awards (like the Newbery and the Caldecott), their page for the Children’s Book Award had all sorts of books—but did not feature the Pura Belpre Award, the Stonewall Award, or even the Coretta Scott King Award. Definitely any eye-opener.  All these awards are for amazing books, so why not include them as well?  Thank you Meg Medina, for your wonderful book and for drawing attention to the issues that so many of us might miss.
 I found out something even more interesting.  While searching for a picture to put on my blog, I found one that had blacked out "ass" in the title.  I clicked on the page, and it took me to the National Coalition Against Censorship's website.  Apparently, last September, Meg Medina was supposed to go to Cumberland Middle School to speak at an anti-bullying event there.  The school board decided her book was too inappropriate, and despite her saying that she would be focusing not on language but on the book's message, she was still asked not to come to the school.  Really?  Are we really still doing this people??!?!?!?!?! 

Here is Meg's blog on the matter:


  1. I also picked this book to read so I just read the first paragraph of your blog. I hope you decided that you liked it/got it.

  2. I found it really interesting that there was some controversy over the book. Meg Medina lives in Richmond, and there was a school that invited her to come, and then decided it was too inappropriate. Definitely check out her blog on it! I hope you like it--I really enjoyed it!