Synopses & Reviews
The 2001 winner of the Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel tells the story of a girl who while preparing for her 15th year celebration--her "quince"--probes into her Cuban roots and unwittingly unleashes a hotbed of conflicted feelings about Cuba within her family. Young Adult.
"Violet Paz, the charismatic narrator of this funny first novel, doesn't know much about her Cuban heritage when her grandmother offers to throw her a quincea ero, a traditional coming-of-age party for a 15-year-old girl. By party time, however, Violet has learned not only about Cuban culture but even 'what is true' about her family and herself. Osa spins a host of story lines: Violet joins the speech team, performing an ever-evolving comedy routine about 'the Loco Family' (she bases her material on a multi-day domino party that the police broke up); she fights with her father, who refuses to talk about Cuba (his parents fled to America with him when he was a baby); and she even finds her first boyfriend. The author can't quite flesh out all these characters and plot points to their full potential (the intimidating speech coach, for instance, seems exaggerated for no reason). Mostly, though, Violet and her wacky family and friends including a pun-loving mother and a vegetarian who breaks up with her boyfriend when he wears leather to a PETA meeting keep the fiesta moving at a lively clip. As a bonus, readers get some exposure to Cuban history and culture, including a smattering of Spanish words and phrases. Ages 12-up." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Reading Group Guide
1. Violet says that in her family “Spanish was currency. Currency I didnt have” (p. 44). What does she mean by this? What else is “currency” in the Paz family? What is currency in your family?
2. Señora Flora asks Violet, “How do you see yourself?” (p. 119). How does Violet reply? In what ways do you think Violets definition of herself changes between the beginning and the end of the book?
3. Violet describes herself as having “a lot of half talents” (p. 119) that shed like to make full talents. What are your half talents? How would you choose some to focus on and develop? Do you see yourself as having one great passion or endeavor in life, or a lot of little ones?
4. The quinceañero marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. How do you see Violet making that transition in the course of the book? Is there any event or experience (it doesnt have to be a fancy ceremony) in your life that marks this transition as the quinceañero does?
5. In your eyes, what does it mean to become an adult? Consider the roles of your parents and friends; your education, religion, government, and culture; and your feelings in determining when you are an adult. Do you ever get mixed messages from these sources about what it takes to be considered an independent adult?
6. Some of Violets adult relatives have their own reasons for wanting her to have the quinceañero. Why is Abuela, for example, so insistent? Have you ever felt that adults in your life wanted to experience something theyd never encountered in their youth-or relive an experience they had had-through you?
7. Why do you think Violets father resists telling her about Cuba? Have you ever had to go around your parents or other authority figures to learn about something and form your own opinion? Are there issues about which youve taken your parents opinion as your own without really thinking about it?
8. Abuela asserts that it is the woman, not the man, “who carries the tradition forward” (p. 246). What does she mean? Can you think of an example-from your own family or culture or a different one-that supports her claim, and an example that refutes it? What are the traditions in your life, and who makes sure they are carried forward?
9. What would be the theme of your quinceañero? What would you include in the ceremony to make it reflect your personality (or just for fun)?