Sunday, September 24, 2023

Brighter Than the Sun, by Daniel Aleman

By virtue of having been born in the United States and having a friend with whom to stay, Sol is able to attend high school in San Diego.  Every morning, she rises early and crosses the border and then crosses back over to Tijuana in the evening.  

With the family's restaurant business failing, her father asks her to try to find an afterschool job in San Diego.  Once she does and starts working before and after school, it is no longer feasible to go home every night so she starts staying over with her friend's family.  While this brings money home, it causes tension back in Tijuana as everyone struggles to adjust to her absence.  And for Sol, it causes internal conflict as she tries to decide if she is more at home in Tijuana or in San Diego, where the brightest future seems to lie.

This moving story of a family struggling to pool their resources to help their (equally hard working) children reach their dreams is powerful stuff.  Sol fights hard trying to earn money for her family while maintaining her academics, all under the strain of a daily border crossing.  But it is a team effort, for while her struggle is inspiring, it is equally clear that she has a number of allies along the way that make all of this possible in the first place.

The story also deals with significant contemporary issues, including racism and homophobia.  It depicts the unique and peculiar energy of the border zone where one can totally change worlds in a few steps.  It addresses the politics of immigration without depicting a single immigrant. I found it rich and populated with compelling characters that made it a pleasurable way to spend a day.

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