Abuela, Don’t Forget Me

Norton. Sept. 2022. 208p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781324019954.
Gr 9 Up–Ogle’s free verse memoir is a series of vignettes, chronologically capturing the soft and dark moments of his childhood through post-college as the shared memories with his maternal grandmother (abuela) dim because of her dementia. Ogle’s readers will recognize events from his earlier works Free Lunch and Punching Bag, but this is a solid standalone reflecting on parental abuse, poverty, bullying, bigotry, coming out, trauma, and the vital impact one person can have on a life. Ogle’s use of repetition, symbolism, and extended metaphor cuts sharply. The book is broken into seven sections; in the sections “To And From” and “There And Back Again,” a young and then post-college Ogle reaches out to his abuela with collect calls. As a child, it’s to let her know where his mom has moved them, always living with others and in poverty. When he’s older, it’s after living on the streets and contemplating suicide. His father kicks him out because he’s gay, and he doesn’t know if even his abuela will be okay with him. She accepts the calls without question, though, and “collects” him each time with unconditional love. Even if readers don’t see the extended metaphors—for instance, they won’t know what a collect call is—there is raw honesty in this work that is compelling. The magnitude of intergenerational relationships, deep connections, and acceptance shine in Ogle’s foreword and poems, which are clearly love letters to his abuela, captured like fireflies in a jar.
VERDICT A must-purchase for all YA nonfiction collections, Ogle’s work speaks directly to what so many young people experience and offers them hope.

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