Typically, The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez, written by Alan Lawrence Sitomer, is not a book I would really enjoy. I actually almost put it down after about 30 pages, not feeling that it was taking me somewhere enjoyable. I am SO glad I stuck with it in the end. The story and characters are so powerful and filled with emotion that I'm still feeling the effects of the story days after I've completed it.
Sonia is the oldest child in a large Mexican family now living in the United States. Her parents are illegals, her mother pregnant yet again. Her Uncle is a drunk and constantly trying to hit on her and the family is completely broke. Through all of this, Sonia is determined to be the first person in her family to graduate from high school, putting in hours and hours of homework and studying each night after her endless chores, cooking, and household help are completed. Her mother believes this dream is nothing but a pipe dream and constantly interrupts Sonia's studying for help translating bills that come in the mail, having refused to learn English.
When Sonia puts her foot down about needing to study and be a kid, her mother decides she needs to go to Mexico to visit her grandmother and learn what familial respect is all about. Sonia is miserable about having to miss school, but after spending time with her Mexican family members, Sonia finds a piece of herself, learning that she really needs to follow her heart when it comes to her school work, friends, and her future. Her decisions may come a bit too late though, when she returns home her mother needs more help than ever, she's in trouble for missing so much school, and her Uncle hasn't let up on his drunken advances.
Sonia shows such a vulnerability and strength, you can't help but pull for her. It's such a unique look into the lives of a family that we hear so much about in the media, being in the United States illegally, that you may now think about those families in a whole new light. Sonia's father is extremely hardworking, only wanting to make a better life for his family in a new country, you almost forget that he has 3 social security numbers!
The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez is a very honest book, filled with bad language and bad situations. That being said, it is incredibly real and emotional. I was surprised I enjoyed it, but in the end I actually nominated it for a Cybil. More people need to read Sonia's story and gain this unique perspective into a family life.
If you're interested in the book and want to learn more or would like to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.