Sometimes in an ordinary day a moment occurs that is so powerful that you need to share it. That is what happened to me in my car traveling north on Telshor Blvd. I slowed into the column of cars stopped for that long red light at the entrance to Mesilla Valley Mall. Suddenly, in the car just ahead of mine, the passenger door swung open and a young man ran directly at me. Startled, my confusion led to a touch of panic. Just when I thought about locking my door, he turned to cut between our cars, sprinted across the median, dodged two lanes of traffic and jumped onto the sidewalk in front of a shopping cart pushed by a shabbily dressed man. A few words were spoken. Then the young man reached down and removed his shoes and placed them in the cart, ran back across the busy street, hopped across the lava rock on the median and jumped back into his car just before the light turned green. I had just enough time to see the man on the sidewalk pick up a shoe and put it on his bare foot.

I don’t know what either of those men were feeling at that moment. I am still overwhelmed with the wonder of what I witnessed.

Just as small buds bloom in the warming spring sun to transform the desert, so too small human acts transform lives and change the future.

Isabel Quintero grew up in a family of migrant farm workers. Although the family was poor, followed the crops and lived in substandard housing, her mother managed to share a special gift each night. She read to her daughter. That little girl has grown up to become an author.

She is the recipient of the 2015 Morris Award which celebrates new voices in young adult literature and honors a first time author. Her book, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, and the recognition of her talent are more reminders of the power of small acts.

In Gabi, A Girl in Pieces the reader is introduced to a unique and exuberant voice. Written in first person, Gabi, a thoroughly modern teenager, negotiates her senior year of high school. She leads the reader into the troubling yet often amusing intersections between generations, cultures, and competing expectations that is the complex world of teenagers. Although categorized as young adult fiction, the subject matter is mature. I recommend it to adults. In fact, it would make for great conversations at a book club.

Quintero describes her motivation for writing Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, “I think it was my goal to present a different narrative of what it can mean to be Mexican-American… The story of belonging, and not-belonging, that we’ve gotten is that we are housekeepers, landscapers, and migrant fieldworkers-all very necessary jobs to keep society moving, but yet always subservient roles in which we have very little opportunity for autonomy. That’s the story we’ve been given. We see this on big screens, small screens, and in books. And it’s romanticized too. Sure being a landowner, inheriting a farm that your great grandfather owned, has a bit of romance. But being a worker on that land from sun up to sun down, exposed to injury, violence, and rape-not so much. So with Gabi, I wanted to present a different story; one that is just as real, and just as American as that of a migrant farmworker. Because really, I believe those narratives and Gabi are stories of America, unhyphenated; and I wanted to give voice to those characters.”

Gabi A Girl in Pieces is published by Cinco Puntos Press and is on the shelf at Branigan Library.


 The Reading Solution column is written monthly by CRA Board Member Rorie Measure to increase public awareness of issues related to literacy.