Word Count: 62,000
Genre: YA Contemporary
System(s) of Oppression: politics of appearance, racism
Author's Identity: Caucasian/Portuguese and female
Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgardo Wants to Kick Your Ass meets Jaye Robin Brown’s No Place to Fall when an aspiring Latina singer challenges a manic stranger who claims to have known her deceased mother.
Overweight sixteen-year-old CeCe’s barrio is where gangs prey on the young and Tejano music blasts from the stoops. CeCe longs for her voice to boom from those speakers, but her overprotective Papi shelters her in their cramped apartment. Determined to break free someday and prove herself, CeCe spends every free moment perfecting her pitch, rhythm, and tone singing everything from Paulina Rubio to Whitesnake.
Her opportunity appears when an eccentric stranger reveals information about CeCe’s dead mother. With the hope of stringing together episodes of her mother’s life back in Colombia, and the lure of fame, CeCe abandons her Papi to tour with the stranger. The roar of the crowd and her dream of a record deal blind CeCe to the stranger’s manic episodes and reckless ways. But she can’t ignore them for long. The stranger encourages rum and Coke consumption, sleeps with people’s husbands, and deserts CeCe in the ghetto at 2:00 a.m. This hard-living stranger turns out not to be a stranger after all but the one person her Papi has been protecting her from all these years.
Dejected and confused, CeCe flees to the underbelly of New York to uncover the shocking truth about the stranger’s real relationship to her dead mother. If she fails, her song may be silenced forever.
Bob Marley once said the good thing about music is that when it hits, you feel no pain. I believed that in the days leading up to the stranger.
Now I know Mr. Marley was a liar.
***The stench of mothballs and mold smacked me in the face as I entered the Salvation Army Store to buy the kind of music Papi hated, bubbling with bad language and boiling over with sexy lyrics. Holding my breath I rushed down the middle aisle past the women’s jeans. My little cousins, Eduard and Bertita, sped through the maze of families in the children’s section to catch up to me.
Eduard wrinkled his nose. “It stinks in here.”
“Until you get used to it, breathe into your shirt like this.” I buried my nose in my shirt.
Bertita, being a dramatic second grader, she threw herself against a glass display case and announced, “I’ll never get used to it, CeCe!”
“It’s amazing what you’ll get used to if you have to,” I said. “Like babysitting you two every day.” Smiling, I palmed the tops of their heads and guided them to the back of the store toward the bin of CDs.
After several minutes of digging, shoving aside Barney CDs and Christmas carols, I unearthed gold — two rap albums from the nineties. One by 2 Live Crew had a parental advisory label warning of “profane or sexually explicit” lyrics. Perfecto.