Book Title Esperanza
Author(s) Carol Gaab
Illustrator(s) Irene Jiménez Casanova
Other Contributors Esperanza
Published by Fluency Matters
Genre Histories and Biographies
Publication date 2011
#Ownvoices No
From the author/publisher’s website
Advanced Beginner

Total Word Count

Illustrations                    YES 
Glossary                          YES  
Guiding Questions       NO  
Context                            YES  

Races, Ethnicities, and Nationalities

Languages spoken

Sex and Genders


Social classes
Working Class
Middle Class

Sexual Orientation



Family Structures

Body Type

From the author/publisher’s website 

This novel is based on the chilling true story of a young family caught in the middle of political corruptions and unspeakable violence during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war. Tired of watching city workers endure countless human and civil rights violations, Alberto organizes a union. When he and his co-workers organize a strike, Alberto and his family find themselves on the government’s “extermination” list. The violent situation leaves Alberto separated from his family and forces them all to flee for their lives. Will their will to survive be enough to help them escape and reunite? And if so- will they ever find another place they can call home?

To what extent do the illustrations present positive and thoughtful representations of identities?

The  illustrations represent true events. 

We understand identities are complex and no single story represents the spectrum of identity-based experiences. Also, a text may address a stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization without relying on it.

Does any stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization affect any positive and thoughtful representations of identities in the text?
Characters of color are assumed to have low family wealth, low educational attainment, and/or low income.

This section is for teachers who are working towards sourcing more texts within the four domains of anti-bias education. We are excited about reading all books and we understand that not all books are written for this specific purpose. 

Does this text work toward goals within any of the four domains of anti-bias education as defined by Teaching Tolerance
Identity: Promote a healthy self-concept and exploration of identity
Diversity: Foster intergroup understanding
Justice: Raise awareness of prejudice and injustice
Action: Motivate students to act by highlighting individual and collective struggles against injustice

Esperanza is a novel based on true events that unfold in Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States, as an undocumented family is forced to leave Guatemala and travel to the United States in order to escape violence from their own government.

The story is easy and interesting to read with a lot of illustrations.

One of the main causes of the constant influx of immigrants to the USA from Central and South American countries is the political instability that most of these countries experience. It is important to address that this political instability has been historically caused by the USA’s interventionist policies. These policies have put in place political puppets and dictators that allow American companies and government to benefit from this instability. The book does not address the role the United States played in Guatemala’s civil war and the reasons why Esperanza had to leave her home country. Sharing this type of story without addressing the reasons for the political instability perpetuates stereotypes about immigration. In addition, the United States is portrayed as the “savior” in the story and seen as the only safe option for Esperanza. 

In addition, Esperanza is repeatedly portrayed as crying uncontrollably (p. 10, 17, 27, 29, 34, 35, 42, 43, 49, 53, 55, 57, and 64). By contrast, her husband, who is going through the same events, is never seen crying.

3.18.2022 We previously identified the examples below as language imperialism.  By nature, authors of comprehensible readers create texts that maximize comprehension of the language for language learners whose first language is English, and this can result in unintended language imperialism when the author’s native language is not Spanish.  We acknowledge that this is a complex concept and that there are many forms of expression among speakers of any language – what appears to function as language imperialism to one individual may not to another for various reasons.  We are looking forward to growing our understanding of this concept through future research and dialogue.

Finally, there is some language imperialism:  
p. 22 “hay muchos policías y soldados guardando la estación”. The word “guardar” is meant to say “to guard” but it means “to put away”.
p. 33, “mi amigo Fernando me encontró en la frontera y me llevó a Los Ángeles”. The phrase “me encontró” is meant to say “we met”, but it means “to find by accident”.
p. 41, “De repente escuchamos la voz de un hombre: “¡No corran! ¡Párense!”  In this case, “párense” is meant to say “stop”, but it means “stand up”. We see the same use of “párense” on page 49. 

1 thought on “Esperanza

  1. This is great! The teachers guide ( I have one purchased in 2013) has even more of the same. There is a whole PowerPoint about living in poverty and the children’s of the dumpster.
    Thanks for putting into words many of the notions, feelings and ideas that were brought up in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

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