Esperanza Rising Study Guide

Pam Muñoz Ryan - Biography

Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in Bakersfield in California’s San Joaquin Valley on December 25th, 1951. She comes from a very large family of four children and twenty-three grandchildren, and her aunts, uncles, and grandparents were always nearby. As a child, Muñoz Ryan spent a lot of time at the air-conditioned local library in order to keep cool. She became very interested in reading and books during her childhood. She earned her bachelor’s degree at San Diego State University. She decided that she wanted to do something that had to do with her love for books, so she later became a bilingual teacher. She was married and had four children of her own. When she returned to college to get her master’s degree in education, a professor suggested that she should consider writing books. Her new career as a successful writer began.

Pam Muñoz Ryan has won many literary awards, including the Pura Belpre Medal, the Jane Addams Peace Award, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults, the Willa Cather Award, and the California Young Reader Medal. Today she works as a full-time writer and lives north of San Diego, California with her husband Jim and their two dogs.

This book, Esperanza Rising has received many awards, including:
The Pura Belpre Award, honoring Latino authors whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in a children’s book 2001
ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults Smithsonian Best Books 2000
Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books 2000
L.A. Times Best Books of 2000 Excellence in a Work of Fiction Award 2001
Children’s Literature Council of Southern California 2001
Judy Goddard/Libraries Limited Arizona Young Adult Author Award
Jane Addams Children’s Book Award
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Pam Muñoz Ryan’s works include:

One Hundred is a Family, 1994
The Flag We Love,
Armadillos Sleep in Dugouts: And Other Places Animals Live, 1997
California, Here We Come!
A Pinky is a Baby Mouse: And Other Baby Animal Names,
Doug Counts Down,
1998 Doug's Treasure Hunt, 1998
Riding Freedom,
Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride: Based on a True Story,
Funnie Family Vacation,
Esperanza Rising,
Hello, Ocean!,
Mice and Beans,
Mud is Cake,
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson: The Voice of a Century,
A Box of Friends,
2003 How do you raise a Raisin?, 2003
Becoming Naomi León,
Nacho and Lolita,

Literary & Historical Information

The plot of this novel unfolds from 1930-31 (with one chapter taking place in 1924). The two major historical forces that shape the plot are the Mexican Revolution and the Great Depression.

The Mexican Revolution began in 1910 and ended in 1917. Throughout much of its history Mexico, like many countries, was controlled by a small number of wealthy families. Most of the people who lived in Mexico were very poor and had no opportunity to get out of poverty. Various men battled for leadership of the nation while many people acted as vigilantes, burning down ranches and killing those with money. In 1917 a new constitution was adopted, but violence continued for the next decade as is seen when Esperanza’s father is killed in 1930.

The second major historical moment portrayed in this novel is the Great Depression. The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted through 1939. The Great Depression was experienced throughout the world. Many students dropped out of school to help their families. Many people lost their homes and jobs. Many Americans and Mexicans migrated to California for work and had to live in terrible conditions. Farmers suffered especially. In 1931 and 1932 a great drought took place, causing a dust bowl.

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