Summary: Efrén Divided
In Efrén Divided, Efrén’s life changes drastically after his mother gets deported. With his father working long hours to care for the family financially and also raise funds to bring his mother back to the States, Efrén has to take charge of the home front. He cares for his younger twin siblings, Max and Mia, while balancing schoolwork and school politics as well as his issues with his best friend, David.
This book is incredibly moving and true-to-life. Cisneros has created characters who feel real and whose struggles are palpable and easy to empathize with. Efrén is a sweet boy who adores his parents, especially his Ama. Yet, as the eldest child of immigrants, he is brave enough to pick up the slack when his mother is deported — without complaining. His father is a hard worker, working day and night — literally — to make ends meet. Yet, Efrén’s papa is not some unfeeling macho man. He tells his son that “it’s okay to cry” when his mother is deported and shares that he misses her too.
Despite the drama at home, there’s also drama in Efrén’s school life. His best friend David is running for class president as is another immigrant child, Jennifer. Efrén and Jennifer share a love of reading and libraries. Both their parents are also undocumented immigrants. When Jennifer’s mother is also deported and she drops out of school, Efrén decides to run in her place, which strains his friendship with David. I really liked Jennifer’s character and her role as one of the many people in this book who create a sense of community for Efrén. I also loved Mr. Garett, Efrén’s teacher and his character arc.
Although this book is heartbreaking in its entirety, its last third is particularly so. What the author achieves without a doubt is helping readers see undocumented immigrants as more than that. Many of these people genuinely feel that moving to America is the only way to create a better life for their families despite the fact that many parents end up being separated from their children in the end. There is also a deep sense of cultural pride as dialogue throughout the book is interspersed with Spanish phrases.
Overall: Efrén Divided
I enjoyed this fantastic debut — especially because of how it ends. It highlights the challenges facing families of undocumented immigrants who must exist with parts of their hearts on the other side of the border. What a time it will be to see a world without borders. Despite being a heartrending portrayal of the lives of undocumented immigrants, Efrén Divided also emphasizes the power of community.
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Have you read Efrén Divided? What did you think? What are your favorite middle-grade books about immigration and immigrants? I’d love to know.
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