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Cinnamon Girl: letters found inside a cereal…
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Cinnamon Girl: letters found inside a cereal box

by Juan Felipe Herrera

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From the book jacket When the towers fall, New York City is blanketed by dust. On the lower East Side, Yolanda makes her manda, her promise, to gather as much of it as she can. As tragedies from her past mix in the air of an unthinkable present, Yolanda searches for hope. Maybe it’s buried somewhere in the silvery dust of Alphabet City.

My reactions
This slim volume is told entirely in free verse. The poems are visceral and disturbing, emotional and moving. And yet, I felt somehow removed from Yolanda and her pain.

I think part of that was because Herrera does not give us a linear timeline. He skips back and forth, starting in a hospital room where Yolanda and her mother await news of her uncle DJ’s condition after he’s been pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center collapse, then moving back and forth in time to give the reader the story of this family’s background, their struggles and triumphs, joys and heartbreaks. The changes in tone, voice and time frame kept me off balance.

A couple of stylistic choices do help the reader. Different fonts are used depending on whether Yolanda is relating what is happening in “real time,” reading an old letter from her uncle, or copying an earlier poem or school assignment. Additionally, he includes a date stamp on most entries, which helps determine the time frame.

Nevertheless, what does come through loud and clear is the emotion being felt. From the typical teen lament of “no one understands me” to the joy and freedom of a new friendship, to the very real fear of having lost someone in a tragic accident, Herrera’s Cinnamon Girl will resonate with many readers. ( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 25, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060579862, Paperback)

I want
to see
what is
on the other side of the dust

When the towers fall, New York City is blanketed by dust. On the Lower East Side, Yolanda, the Cinnamon Girl, makes her manda, her promise, to gather as much of it as she can. Maybe returning the dust to Ground Zero can comfort all the voices. Maybe it can help Uncle DJ open his eyes again.

As tragedies from her past mix in the air of an unthinkable present, Yolanda searches for hope. Maybe it's buried somewhere in the silvery dust of Alphabet City.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:15 -0400)

Yolanda, a Puerto Rican girl, tries to come to terms with her painful past as she waits to see if her uncle recovers from injuries he suffered when the towers collapsed on September 11, 2001.

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