Friday, February 5, 2010

Latino in America

Latino in America
Originally uploaded by commonreaders

Now that I am writing on this blog again, I have quite a back log of books I have read over the fall and winter that I haven't written about yet. I'll take this next week to catch up on those books.

A few months ago, I read Latino in America, by Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Acre. I had heard about the CNN special a few times, but never got to catch it. I watched the Black in America series last year and enjoyed it, so I was sad to have missed the Latino series. However, I was delighted to stumble across the book version and started reading it right away.

It starts with Soledad O'Brien's fascinating personal family history. Both of her parents were immigrants: her father an Australian of Irish ancestry, and her mother a Cuban of African descent. The stories of her family's rich and mixed cultural heritage had me hooked from the beginning.

Of course, the book's not about Soledad O'Brien. After the first chapter, she goes on to share the stories of many other Latinos living in this country. Some are citizens, others are immigrants (both legal and illegal). They are from Mexico, Central America, South America, and several different island nations. The book explores the how Cuban immigrants are treated differently (often better) than immigrants from other Latin countries. She interviewed Latinos from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, and other countries. Some of the stories were inspiring, while others were deeply heart-breaking.

Growing up in south Texas, I felt like I already knew something about Latino Americans, but of course, realized my experience was limited. This book showed me just how limited my knowledge was and still is. It exposed biases and assumptions I never noticed in myself.

O'Brien's book is entertaining, informative, inspiring, gut-wrenching, eye-opening, and revealing. I'm certainly no expert on the subject as a result of reading her book, but I do feel as if a have a slightly better grasp on the issues thanks to her reporting. I'm glad I read it.

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