[Re]visiting Evelyn Serrano

By Elizabeth Burr, Kershaw County School District, Camden, SC, Julia López-Robertson, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, and Lisa Stockdale, Kershaw County School District

For the next month we, a university professor, a district ESL teacher and a classroom teacher taking a course on English Learner Assessment, invite you to join us as we think about and make connections to The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. The story is about a young Puerto Rican girl, Evelyn, coming of age in Spanish Harlem, NYC, in the summer of 1969. A part of our class is reading young adult novels and making connections to the theories we read about and to our life experiences. Some of the cultures represented in these books are familiar to us but the majority are new. The new ones provide the opportunity for us to learn about a new culture and adapt it to the children in our classrooms. This first week, we present Elizabeth [Betsy] Burr’s, thoughts and connections to Evelyn Serrano. Then, we provide a mini-text set for your consideration. We welcome your responses and connections to our post!

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano is an amazing read. I sat down and read the majority of the book in one day. I find it intriguing to read and learn about the cultural norms of “Nuyoricans”, the nuances, historical events and Puerto Rican culture. From the beginning, it is apparent that Evelyn (formerly Rosa) struggles between accepting her Puerto Rican heritage and finding her place as an American citizen. While she lives in El Barrio, a small Puerto Rican community nestled inside of Harlem and steps away from downtown New York City, she does her best to separate herself from her family, heritage and her culture. She wants to be different more than anything.

After an unexpected visit from her Abuela, she slowly discovers that her heritage is much different than she thought. As days went by, she learns more about her Abuela, her rich history, previous life experiences, her pride for Puerto Rico and how important it is to stand up for what you know is right. At the same time Evelyn learns more about her family, she also discovers herself and shifts her paradigm on beauty, strength and happiness. The Young Lords alter Evelyn’s paradigm as they move into El Barrio and start a revolution to end hunger, improve healthcare and the quality of life for the members of El Barrio. These moments shape Evelyn’s thinking and allow her to reflect on the gifts that are present in her life. The things she takes for granted slowly transition into prized possessions. As the revolution continues, she grows closer with her family and bonds with them, as they unite their small community.

Although the story is fictional, it includes many historical events that impact to Puerto Rican culture, offer insight into familial relationships, cultural expectations and simply growing up in a world where you do not feel like you fit in. It is important to consider how our students’ feel as they enter into new communities, schools and relationships. We must build relationships with them, get to know them and offer them the tools to find their way and achieve success.

Mini-Text Set
The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Work of Tato Laviera (2014)
by Center Puerto Rican Studies,‎ Stephanie Alvarez,‎ William Luis (Ed.)
Grades: 5th & Above
Genre: Poetry
Topics: Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights, health care, etc.
Special features: The author uses Spanish, English and Spanglish in his collection.

The Bodega: A Cornerstone of Puerto Rican Barrios (The Justo Martí Collection) (2016)
by Carlos Sanabria
Grades: 5th & Above
Genre: Photo Memoir
Topic: 1940s to the 1970s bodegas; immigrant life
Special features: Not just a place for Puerto Rican immigrants to buy groceries, these snapshots show the role that bodegas played in the social and cultural life of neighborhoods.

The Golden Flower: A Taino Myth from Puerto Rico (2005)
by Nina Jaffe (author) and‎ Enrique O. Sanchez (Ill.)
Grades: Kinder. & Above
Genre: Myth
Topic: Story of how a golden flower created the island of Puerto Rico.
Special feature: Just as the Greeks and Romans had their own mythology, so did the Tainos.

My Name is Maria Isabel (1995)
by Alma Flor Ada (Author),‎ K. Dyble Thompson (Ill).
Grades: 3rd- 5th
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Topic: Story of Maria Isabel who moves to a new school where teacher thinks nothing of “changing” her name to Mary because there are already two other Marias in the class.
Educational Value: A great book to read at the beginning of the year. Could be used to honor the culture of Spanish speaking students and to encourage and honor the background of each child’s name story.

[Editor’s Note: Read our previous discussion on how The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano encourages readers to think about how familial capital helps challenge inequitable situations. Additionally, we talk about how this book can inspire students to start internal revolutions, revolutions of the heart.]

Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

5 thoughts on “[Re]visiting Evelyn Serrano

  1. Robin Sowell says:

    Wonderful summary of a great book! I agree that it took Evelyn some time, but she finally realized that her community was important not only to the Young Lords and her Abuela, but to her too. The bond that grew between the mother, Abuela, and Evelyn is what I think she had been missing in her life.

  2. Hope Robinson says:

    Excellent review, Betsy! I enjoyed learning about the history and cultural background of the “Nuyoricans”. The relationships between the three generations of strong women make this a read that many will be able to relate to and make connections with their own lives. I think the redemptive ending was inspiring and shows that the mother/child bond is ever present.

  3. Teri Davis says:

    I loved your review! The book was such a great depiction of a coming-of-age story and how our family connections and cultural backgrounds are fundamental to who we become as adults. I would love to see a second novel that brings us story of her adult life!

  4. Lauren Hunt says:

    What a thoughtful review of this book! “At the same time Evelyn learns more about her family, she also discovers herself and shifts her paradigm on beauty, strength and happiness.” I connected with this statement because parenthood has allowed me to learn so much about the strong women in my family through our shared experiences. Like Evelyn, I had to grow up to discover myself and to live the life I am intended to live. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Lori Deese says:

    This was a very thorough review of the book, nice job!! I had several connections to Evelyn as I read that ranged from struggles with conflicting personalities of myself and my own mother to having my own grandmother living with me during high school. It did tug at my heart quite often.

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