CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 19. . . .January 17, 2014
At 14-years-old, Victoria has already suffered tremendous loss. The death of her mother meant that she and her four-year-old twin brothers had to move in with her aunt. Now she must leave her brothers after an assault by her aunt’s boyfriend forces her onto the streets. Living on the streets in Argentina means that Victoria must eke out a living by selling flowers and cleaning cafes while avoiding the drug dealers and gang members who constantly threaten her safety.
Goldemberg describes life for the street kids in Argentina with stark realism and compassion. Victoria must learn whom to trust while also making decisions that allow her to stay alive. The kind café owners allow her to sleep in the basement in exchange for cleaning when the café is closed. Marko, another street kid, helps Victoria find a corner to wash car windows, but his own demons prove to be too much for him. His drug use and poor decision making make for a contrast to Victoria and illustrate how difficult it is too maintain values in their current situation. The helplessness that Victoria feels at the beginning of the book is palpable. As Victoria takes more control over her life, the helplessness is replaced by hope. On the streets, Victoria develops her own community and even begins a romance with Andres. While the story does not have a “happily ever after” ending, the reader certainly feels optimistic for Victoria and her future.
The strength of Goldemberg’s story is her ability to use her characters to show the life of a street kid in Latin America. The setting and characters are so tightly woven together that the decisions that they are forced to make seem valid for their circumstances. Each character is driven by his or her own hopes and dreams. Andres wants to play soccer, cousin Betina is a singer, even Marco shares that his grandmother hoped that he would be a doctor.
At some points of the book, I wished that I could read Spanish. Smith has done a good job of including some words in the original Spanish with the translations included in a glossary. These inclusions help to retain the culturally specific feel of the text, and, while the meanings in the glossary are interesting, they are not necessary as the context helps with understanding. At other points though, the dialogue comes across as stilted, and I am not sure if this is because of the translation into English. I hope that young readers will connect with the characters enough to overlook some of the awkwardness, but it does add another layer of difficulty.
Victoria’s persistence in overcoming her circumstances and her ability to maintain her own values and beliefs in the face of such adversity create an uplifting message. Goldemberg provides this message without being unrealistic with a “rags to riches” type of story. In addition, readers will have a better understanding of the realities of the life of street kids.
Karen Boyd is an instructor in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.