In August 2017 we went to Oaxaca so we busily built our Oaxaca reading list before the trip. We took Beija and her friend Pacifica on this trip. They were both 12 when we set off and are great readers. They wrote some of the reviews for me – I am liking this approach! Our Oaxaca reading list has given me high anxiety about scorpions. As we noted in our post on keeping kids riveted, previewing learning before a trip helps to create a meaningful and lasting impact. Many of the book covers link directly to Amazon. I bought some, like Peter Kuper’s beautifully illustrated books, but many I was able to get at the library.So what follows is a reading list for:
Little ones (0-7ish)
Older ones (6-12ish)
Parents and advanced readers (11 up)
That said, I’ve enjoyed reading the second category just for some cultural insights so maybe some older kids could tolerate it too.
Oaxaca Reading List for Very Young Kids
The series of bilingual books by Cynthia Weil has beautiful Oaxacan folk art. Woodcarvers from Oaxaca made most of the wood figures in these books. El Piñatero is a bilingual book about a man who makes piñatas in Crespo, Oaxaca. This sweet, simple story gives a great sense of the culture in Crespo. The photography makes Don Ricardo, the piñata maker, feel as real to the reader as he is in Crespo.
Oaxaca Reading List for Older Kids
Laura Resau’s What the Moon Saw tells the story of a 14 year old girl from Maryland who spends the summer with her grandparents in the mountains of Oaxaca. The book teaches about nature, culture, and customs. Pacifica writes: I really enjoyed the parts when Clara Luna first sees her grandparents, when the bus is stuck on the drive there, her reaction to the village life: the food, chores, and all her thoughts about how her grandparents and the rest of the village live and work in that way. Here is Laura Resau’s discussion guide for the book. Laura Resau also wrote a very YA-y book, Red Glass, that addresses some of the brutal conditions that migrants face as they escape violence or poverty in their home countries.
Beija writes: The Balloons of Oaxaca leads us on a journey through the eyes of a young Mexican boy. When he is left to fend for himself in the big city of Oaxaca, he struggles to make money and find a place to sleep. The book showed me what it is like to be immersed into a new culture, a new life, try to earn money, have a place to sleep, and to earn friends that will help you with your struggles.
We are planning on volunteering at a school in Oaxaca. The Balloons of Oaxaca helped us to understand what the children there might be going through.
Oaxaca Reading List for Grownups (or Advanced Kids)
Peter Kuper has combined his great artistic talent with storytelling for Ruins and Diario de Oaxaca. Ruins is a graphic novel about a couple living in Oaxaca during the violent teacher’s strike. The other is Peter’s own sketches and narrative about his time living there. Enjoyable, beautiful books that make me wish I could draw. One request, Peter: enough with the scorpions! If you are interested in the textiles of the area, Eric Mindling’s Oaxaca Stories in Cloth is a quick, informative read about the textiles and traditional clothing in Oaxaca’s villages.
I am going to put Gabo here even though Macondo is a fictional place. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude when he lived in Mexico City and was inspired to write as he was driving from Acapulco. And because it is one of the most magical books I’ve ever read. Barabara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna highlights the connection between art and politics that infuses Mexico. Another wonderful read.
Like Water for Chocolateis a magical realism classic. It is an engaging story of star-crossed love, food, and family tradition. Warning, there is some violence and sexual content. Blossoms of Firewas a documentary about the women of Juchitán who have a much more gender-balanced community than most. The 11, almost 12, year-olds really enjoyed it and had a lot to say about gender roles afterward. We just got this one at the local library since it wasn’t available for streaming when we looked.
What were your favorite books and movies set in or near Oaxaca?