Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From

S. & S./Atheneum. 336p. Aug. 2020. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534438248..
Gr 7-10–Everything is changing. American-born Liliana and her twin brothers live in Boston with their El Salvadoran mother and Guatemalan father, who has been mysteriously absent for weeks. No one talks about where her dad is or when he is coming back, and Liliana doesn’t have the heart to ask her mother, who is often crying and exhausted. The book opens just as Liliana has been accepted into METCO, a program to desegregate schools by putting good students from low-performing urban schools into high-achieving suburban schools. Liliana switches schools reluctantly, accustomed to her own community of people who look like her, sound like her, and have shared experiences. She cannot easily relate to her white classmates, from the way they talk to their reactions to her cultural norms. Feeling ostracized, Liliana meets Dustin, who gives her butterflies whenever they interact. De Leon uses frequent Spanish words and Latino pop culture references, with plentiful context clues, to portray Liliana’s world and family. That, paired with slang-heavy dialogue, keeps the story moving along. It will be familiar territory for readers who straddle two cultures, for anyone who has had to be a newcomer, and, in this era, anyone who has ever worried about the impact of deportation on families.
VERDICT A timely addition to most collections, this realistic fiction title will resonate with many readers.

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