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Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

Return to Sender (2009)

by Julia Alvarez

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Julia Alvarez puts a human face on the complex issue of illegal immigration and struggling farmers. Tyler isn't so sure his parents have made the right decision hiring three undocumented Mexican men to help save their dairy farm. Mari, the oldest daughter of one of the men, worries about her mother who's vanished at the border and about keeping her family out of the hands of "la migra." Tyler and Mari eventually become friends: Tyler now has greater understanding of the issues facing his and Mari's families; and Mari develops a stronger voice and spirit thanks to the aid that American friends provide in times of crisis. The tone at times is didactic; there's no mistaking which side the author supports in the immigration debate. But what this book does best is introduce a complex national issue to young readers at a level they can understand. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
I enjoyed many aspects of this book, in particular the representation of cultural differences between Mexicans and Americans on a farm in Vermont, post 911. Mexican customs, such as the Day of the Dead celebration and the reverential treatment of the elderly are juxtaposed to American traditions of stifling grief over loss of loved ones and dismissive treatment of aging parents. A conflict of interests is presented in terms of an American family who is no longer able to keep up their farm and is forced to hire Mexican laborers, and characters grow and change throughout the novel. However, I felt the discussion of issues of immigration was only glossed over; references were made to the American family having come from Canada and be accepted in the U.S., but concerns about immigrants are not that simplistic. Only one reference was made to the farm workers paying taxes; I think the complicated issue of working legally vs. illegally could have been addressed more explicitly. Also, while I found the two main characters, Tyler and Mari, to be likable and realistic adolescents, Mari's letter-writing seemed excessive. The format does fit nicely, however, with the book's title, Return to Sender, which refers to a term used to deport illegal workers.

This book would be a great jumping off point for a good conversation about immigration laws. I found myself asking all kinds of questions about what it takes to get a green card to work legally, why Mexicans are willing to risk leaving their country in the first place, and how many Mexicans are held hostage in the way that it turns out Mari's mother was. I found it hard to believe a twelve-year-old girl would be the person to deliver money and arrange a pick up spot to get her mother back (yes, this happens in the story), but I believe I am naive about these types of situations. I am curious about what it would be like to live in a border town and what it would be like to try to enter the U.S. illegally. Students would also find these questions compelling and could research this contemporary political issue.

I also must mention that I learn about a new punctuation mark, the interrobang! Who knew (not I) that there is a name for a question mark/exclamation point together?! Alvarez devotes a chapter in her novel to the interrobang. ( )
  SueStolp | Jan 23, 2016 |
A touching story about a boy, Tyler, who lives on a farm in Vermont. His family hires three Mexican workers to help take care of the farm after the death of his grandfather and after his father got in a tractor accident. One of the workers has 3 little girls, Maria is the same age as Tyler. When Tyler finds out that they are illegal immigrants he begins to fear what may happen to the farm if they are discovered by immigration. Maria and Tyler becomes friends, and it helps to teach Tyler that not everything is black and white. ( )
  CathrynAnna | Nov 8, 2015 |
Julia Alvarez writes about immigration world in the United States. She writes it in two perspectives. One, In Tyler's perspective, who is boy living with his family in a Dairy Farm. They were about to lose their farm, so they asked for help. The second perspective is through Mari, who is the daughter of the migrant workers that are going to help out in the farm. Tyler and his classmates have a hard time understanding the migrant life, but as time goes on Tyler becomes knowledgeable about their circumstances.
  ayala.yannet | Jun 7, 2015 |
A girl and her family living illegally in America. Everyday they are worried that they are going to get caught by the police and deported back to Mexico. This girl is Maria and she lives with her 2 American sisters, her Mexican dad and her 2 Mexican uncles. Everyday Maria watches the phone, waiting for a call from her Mexican mother who had to travel back to Mexico. She wants her mother back. When Maria's family moves to New Hampshire from their home in North Carolina, Maria is worried that they might never get to see their mother again.
I think that the author did a really nice job incorporating the different aspects of Mexican traditions into a story about an American lifestyle. I think that the author also did a really nice job with the way that he kept the family's fear of getting deported ever present, but not overwhelmingly so. I would definitely recommend this book for people who like suspenseful and happy, heartwarming stories. ( )
  chgrbr14 | Feb 25, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375858385, Hardcover)

After Tyler's father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

In a novel full of hope, but no easy answers, Julia Alvarez weaves a beautiful and timely story that will stay with readers long after they finish it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:17 -0400)

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After his family hires migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure, eleven-year-old Tyler befriends the oldest daughter, but when he discovers they may not be in the country legally, he realizes that real friendship knows no borders.… (more)

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