- Reading level: Young Adult
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (March 8, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780061953422
- ISBN-13: 978-0061953422
- ASIN: 0061953423
Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—in wait of her father’s return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her quinceañera. This gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl’s unique, yet universal immigrant experience.
“This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants.” –-Kirkus Reviews
“With depth and detail…Never sentimental. The unsparing language keeps the tension mounting as well as the heartache… …The teen’s first person narrative will grab readers with gritty details, honest anger and sorrow and the small acts of kindness that occur through the harrowing adventure.” –Booklist, Starred Review.
Online Excerpt – 50 pages plus glossary.
Prologue to Illegal
3 years earlier
“When will you be back?” I asked, holding Papa’s hand at the bus stop.
Worry coated Papa’s face. “As soon as I can earn enough money.”
“Should I get a job too?” I asked. “I could ask if they need help in the church.”
Papa’s eyebrows drew together over his glasses, “No. Your job is not to grow up until I get back.” He cupped my chin in his hand and his eyes brimmed with tears.
I reached up and pulled off his glasses to clean them with the edge of my cotton skirt. “Ignacio’s Papa never came back. Then, her family left.” What if that happened to us?
Mama shuffled her sandaled feet in the dusty road and cleared her throat. “Arturo, the bus will be here soon.”
“Why can’t we go with you?” I felt the dryness of the land crawling into my throat. “I promise I won’t be a burden. Mama can stay here to take care of Grandma and the orchard. Please, don’t go.”
Mama smoothed the stray hairs from my braid, “Nora, we talked about this. You can’t go with Papa. We all agreed this is for the best.”
I snapped at her. “I didn’t agree. I don’t even want presents for my birthday or a communion dress. We should just try harder. HERE! ”
Mama’s face crinkled up in hurt, “It’s not about wanting. Please don’t make this so hard for him.”
“I wish I could stay, but the buyers don’t come the pueblos anymore. The drought. No jobs. We need the money, mija.” Papa pulled me close and kissed the top of my head. “I promise I’ll be back. I always keep my promises.” A small gold cross dangled out of his shirt. “I will. Even far away,” his voice vibrated.
“Do you really have to go away to make things better?” I asked
The bus turned the corner and Papa released me, picking up his black plastic bag. I tangled my arms around his waist. “Don’t go. Please, don’t go. I need you Papa.”
Papa tried to separate us. “Nora, there is no other choice. This is how I will protect us. Just for a little while.”
“NO!!!” I screamed. “NO! NO! NO!”
“I love you, Nora. Ti amo, Aurora.”
Author Bio: You want this writer in your team of books.
Bettina Restrepo pushed her way out in Ft Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma. Two weeks later, she received a passport and began traveling the world. Her German mother, her Colombian father, and big brother migrated from place to place with the US Army. In school, she cried in the classroom because she didn’t know which language to speak or which circle to color in under ethnicity. She now calls herself a Texan.
She found solace in the public library where they gave her a card and let her check out as many books as she could carry. Her Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume novels received frequent flier miles, because Bettina relied on the books as her best friends.
She received her BS in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin – where she marched in the band, made a “D” in math, and slept through economics. She spent many years being a frustrated Internal Auditor, while writing at night, far away from the eyes of the corporate world.
Bettina “The Pusher” is charming and funny. She is also pushy, bossy and refuses to give up. She has also been known to cheat on board games. She lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband, son, and dog.