Los Tres Amigos

Book Title Los Tres Amigos (The Three Friends)
Author(s) Jennifer Degenhardt
Illustrator(s) Sofía Salazar
Other Contributors José Salazar
Stephanie Mancini
Published by Puentes
Genre Realistic Fiction
Publication date 2017
#Ownvoices NO
From the author/publisher’s website
Levels 2 & 3

Total Word Count

Illustrations                 YES 
Glossary                       YES  
Guiding Questions      NO  
Context                        NO

Races, Ethnicities, and Nationalities
Puerto Rican 

Languages spoken
Spanish/Puerto Rican

Sex and Genders


Social classes
Middle Class
Sexual Orientation



Family Structures

Body Type

From the author/publisher’s website 

Marissa and Jack have been best friends for as long as they can remember, only having troubles when Jack wasn’t always honest about himself. Despite their differences, their friendship endures. However, that friendship is challenged when a new student, Julio, moves to town and upsets the longstanding dynamic between Marissa and Jack. 

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

The images, especially those used in the form of screenshots from a Snapchat account, present a fairly realistic and accurate description of the story. The book cover art has a very enticing and positive image representing two male and a female figures in a triangle with the colors of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag.

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?

The book plot seems to revolve around the comfort and suffering from the cishet female (Marisa) rather than celebrating Jack’s journey and self-discovery as a gay person.
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 Learning for Justice

Los tres amigos is a story that includes two gay students as main characters. There are three perspectives narrated in this story. The plot is narrated in first-person, with each chapter written from a particular character’s unique perspective. This book may help open dialogue with students about sexual diversity by showing that many relationships are situated outside of heteronormativity. 

One of the main characters, Jack, is struggling with his identity. As the book is written from the first-person perspective, the reader can engage with Jack’s inner dialogue as he processes his identity.  One of the main characters references wearing “masks” since he feels unable to be honest about his identity. The “mask” metaphor may be relatable to many readers. 

The storyline revolves around three friends: Marissa, Jack, and Julio. Jack is gay, and Marissa is in a dating relationship with Julio. As the story progresses, Julio questions his identity, and later identifies as gay, which leads to the end of the dating relationship between himself and Marissa. In the midst of the breakup of their relationship, Marissa states her frustration and confusion (“Mi novio de cuatro meses me decía lo imposible / My boyfriend of 4 months was telling me the impossible,” p. 40) and isolates herself from both Julio and Jack, who are now pursuing a relationship with each other. The last chapter of the book implies that the three may become friends again, but the responsibility of repairing the relationship with Marissa comes from Julio and Jack, suggesting that Marissa is a “victim” of Julio’s coming out. The perspective that Julio’s sexual identity creates chaos emerges several times through the book during the breaking up of his relationship with Marissa (p. 40) and with the tension that has developed in his family: “Tenía muchos problemas con su familia cuando le decía que era homosexual. Todavia los tiene. / He had a lot of problems with his family when he told them he was homosexual. He still has them.” (p. 43). The storyline thus does not seem to center on the gay characters nor does it foster intergroup understanding, but rather centers on the discomfort felt by Marissa and by Julio’s family.

The author uses the following word choice: “soy homosexual / I’m homosexual” (p. 4). While this is a correct usage of the vocabulary, the term is more technical than tends to occur in everyday language; many LGBTQ+ youth and some LGBTQ+ educators refer to their own identity by just saying “soy gay” or “soy queer.”  

The book references Operación Manos a la Obra (Operation Bootstrap), which the author footnotes as “a multifaceted program that transformed the Puerto Rican economy, formally one of agriculture, to an industrial one” (p. 30). In the text, one of the main character’s families emigrated from Puerto Rico to New York in the 1950s. The text states: “Como la economía de la isla cambiaba de una agraria a una industrial, les faltaban muchos trabajos y muchos hombres emigraron a los Estados Unidos en busca de trabajo / As the economy of the island changed from an agrarian to an industrial one, it was hard to find jobs and a lot of men emigrated to the United States in search of work” (p. 26). This may be an opportunity to acknowledge how programs such as Operación Bootstrap exploited the Puerto Rican population by giving U.S.-based companies tax exemptions for moving their businesses to the island in order to capitalize on a lower cost of labor.  

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