Revolution of Evelyn Serrano

author: Sonia Manzano
Scholastic, 2012
grades 6-up
Puerto Rican

Fifteen-year-old Evelyn Serrano sees herself as an ordinary girl living in El Barrio, Spanish Harlem, in 1969. She has just started a new job in a department store and is proud of her ability to earn money for herself and to help her family. Then a flamboyant stranger comes to town—her grandmother, whom she barely knows, and who does not get along at all with Evelyn’s solid, self-sacrificing mother. Evelyn learns that, decades ago on the island, her grandmother left her mother to live with relatives while she got involved with the Puerto Rican nationalist movement. 

Conflict between grandmother and mother boils over when Evelyn’s grandmother helps the Young Lords Party as they try to organize the neighborhood and obtain meeting space from the First Spanish United Methodist Church that the family attends. These efforts culminate in the historic takeover of the church in December 1969, an event in which Evelyn, grandmother, and even her mother participate.

Sonia Manzano, best known for her portrayal of Maria on the PBS children’s series, “Sesame Street,” offers an engaging look at a key historical event of the civil rights movement through the lens of mother-daughter tensions that span generations. The rebellious grandmother and conservative mother turn the generational stereotype upside down and allow Manzano to give readers a window into Puerto Rico’s history and the at-times violent nationalist struggles of the mid-twentieth century. The focus, however, remains on the spunky protagonist, her family, and her community at a time of renewed conflict that in the end changes and empowers Evelyn both on a personal level and in relation to the world around her. Recommended.

—Lyn Miller-Lachmann
(published 7/15/13)

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