Friday, June 19, 2009

A Home on the Field

Here's a post about a GREAT NEW BOOK.

The other week I was privileged to be asked to speak at a large conference about Latino issues in North Carolina. Though I speak Spanish at my `day job,' and work with many Latinos, I’m not of Latino background myself. Thus it was great to be immersed in an environment where each of the presenters was bi-lingual and had personal experience growing up Latino.

Though I went there as a presenter, I was still a writer underneath. So I sat at the Latino conference with my writers’ notebook, writing down phrases, cultural notes, and brainstorm ideas that I picked up from the other speakers’ presentations. You see – I’ve been plotting-out a YA novel about a teen girl from Latin America for the past few months, and here I was surrounded by people who are experts on what it is like to be a girl (or boy) from Latin America. So I came home with lots of notes to buoy my own experiences and to strengthen my plot (which truthfully needs a lot of strengthening).

The Keynote speaker at the event was Paul Cuadros, a journalism professor from the University of North Carolina (UNC,) who also coaches soccer at a North Carolina high school. He shared some great stories about the hardships that Latino teens face trying to balance and combine the culture of their home countries with the culture of the U.S. These teens walk the line between their parents’ strong feelings that family needs are the most important things in life, and the conflicting expectations of the teens’ U.S-raised peers who believe that individuality and reaching for your own dreams are the most important things, even if your parents don’t always approve.

For those of us who spend time with Latino teens, or who write for them, it's important to understand their struggles.

So, I want to recommend a book.

Paul Cuadros has written "A Home on the Field." It's the true story of the teens on his soccer team, their families, and their struggles. It’s a great example of nonfiction writing about teens and their community – a community that during the time of this book’s writing was in conflict with itself.

Here is the back cover blurb: For more than ten years, the small town of Siler City, North Carolina, has been at the front lines of immigration, drawing workers from Latin America as well as from traditional Latino enclaves across the United States. When reporter Paul Cuadros moved south to study the impact of the burgeoning Latino community, he encountered a volatile culture clash between longtime residents and the newcomers, one that eventually boiled over into an anti-immigrant rally featuring ex-Klansman David Duke. The bitter struggle imbued Cuadros with a new purpose: to show the growing numbers of Latino youth that their lives could be more than menial work at the local poultry plant. Soccer could be the key to helping these boys find a better place in this world.

`A Home on the Field’ is Paul Cuadros’ unforgettable account of his three seasons coaching `Los Jets’ of Jordan-Matthews High School, a team of underappreciated young Latino soccer players in an all-football town who overcame prejudice, poverty, and the odds to become champions.

Sometimes a book about real teens comes along that is a must read. I recommend
A Home on the Field” as just such a book.