When Ceci Alvarez decides to spend time thinking about who she is —and avoid taking yoga or reading books out of the “Self-Help” section when she grows up—she knows certain things about herself. She is twelve going on thirteen. She is four feet and nine inches tall. She is named Cecilia Maryann Alvarez after her grandmothers, one name English and one name Spanish, which “made sense, since one of my grandmas spoke English and one spoke Spanish.” But the things the teenager does not know will send her riding the rails from Los Angeles to Tijuana, Mexico to learn a little something about her father’s family.
One day while in her Nana’s room, Ceci discovers a table brimming with old photographs of people she does not know and places she has never been. “Those pictures were probably the first things in the whole house which had ever interested me.” This extraordinary find and the rapid Spanish of her grandmother’s accusation that her father is embarrassed to be Mexican propel Ceci on an odyssey that leads her from the trail of photographs to a new discovery.
Tony, a lively young teen Ceci meets on the train, leads her from one country to the next, and challenges her to see Mexico as “green and brown. It’s little villages with big farms, and lots of grass, and towns where electricity is something not everyone has. It’s spicy chilies, juicy tomatoes, and light tortillas. It’s music, and laughter and pride.”
In this debut novel, Maria Colleen Cruz creates the vibrant voice of a girl just on the brink of understanding. With her journal at her side, this thoughtful and creative character tackles complicated issues of identity and self-empowerment.