Dreams. They can be so hard to reach.
Camino Rios is a lucky girl. She lives in the Dominican Republic with her Tia. Tia is a healer and can seemingly pull off one miracle after another. She's so good at it that her niece, Camino, dreams of going to Columbia University in New York to major in pre-med.
The other girls around her aren't aiming so high. But the other girls around her don't have Camino's Papi who visits her every summer and sends her enough money to pay for her school tuition. Camino and Tia have things their neighbors don't have because of the money Papi can send.
Yahaira Rios lives in New York and doesn't really know how lucky she is. She's a rule follower and all of her report cards say, "Meets expectations." She doesn't do more than she needs to except when Papi taught her to play chess. That she was good at. Yahaira is satisfied to spend her time with Dre, the girl she loves.
Two girls. Two different worlds. Then, a plane crash changes it all. Papi was on that plane and when it went down the media told the world there were no survivors. But there were actually a lot of survivors and two of them were Camino and Yahaira and they were about to find out about Papi's secret.
They were about to discover that each of them had a sister - a sister they never knew existed.
Rich in the vibrant culture of the DR, this is a story of two young women who are dealing with their self image, their identities, their sense of where and how they belong to the world. That world sends them some pretty strong messages about their sexuality, their bodies, who they belong to and what they can be used for.
Their experience teaches them they can be abused at the hands of men who wield power, offer empty promises and rule by making young women their pawns as though all they have to offer is their sexuality and their attraction for older men.
Camino and Yahaira are champions at heart. Both young women have the capacity to love and to see beyond the boxes their culture wants to use to trap them.
This is a deeply felt story about coming of age and about finding out your parents hold onto secrets you never suspected. This is a deeply felt story about two young women who are strong enough to shatter the expectations and to veer away from the only deeply rutted paths women on the island believe are open to them. This is a beautiful story about strength, intelligence, courage, loyalty and the astonishing power of generations of women when they stand together to defy the demands of men who feel entitled to take what will never belong to them.
Read this one for sisterhood. Read this one to feel the feeling of what it must be like to sit in the office at the appointment when your papers are being evaluated for a visa - that amazing visa that will open the door to the United States, to education, to your future, to being who you were truly meant to be. Read this one to feel that feeling of the strength and pride in being a woman. Willing to give up, willing to take care of others, willing to fight together and willing to take big risks to reach the place where you can live that dream you've held for so long.
Expect to get scared. Expect to feel vulnerable. Expect to get angry.
Tissue box needs to be handy. Get ready to shout brava! Truly beautiful.
432 pages 978-0062882769 Ages 14 and up (sexual abuse)
Keywords: sisters, secrets, novel in verse, finding yourself, dreams, father/daughter, Latina author, Latinx, multicultural, family, sexual abuse, 14 year old, 15 year old, 16 year old, women, relatives, hope
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other. --from the publisher
“‘What’s his other daughter’s name?’ I ask.”
“There you stood on the edge of your feather
Expecting to fly
While I laughed I wondered whether
I could wave goodbye”
-- Neil Young (1967)
“Swimming might be the closest thing to flying
a human being can get. There is something
about your body displacing water
in order to propel through space that makes you feel
Godtouched. That makes me understand evolution,
that we really must have crawled up from the sea.
My life’s passions
are all about water breaking, new life making,
taking breath in wrinkled flesh,
Tia tells me I am probably the daughter
of a water saint. All I know is I am most sure
of my place in the world
with the water combing my kinks,
the cold biting into my skin, & my arms
creating an arc over my head as I barrel through,
& battle too these elements.”
“Dre has been my best friend
since her family rented the apartment next door.
She’s been my girlfriend
sine some time during seventh grade.
We share a fire escape,
& the summer we turned twelve
we found ourselves out there
at the same hours of the day.
Dre would be reading a fantasy novel
or pruning a half-dead tomato plant,
& I’d be playing chess on my phone
or looking at nail tutorials.
She & I became tight
as freshly laundered jeans.
Both of us absorbed in our own worlds
but comfortable sharing space.
Dre comes from a Southern military family.
She wasn’t meant to be a hippie child,
but she’s granola to the core. A tree-hugging,
squirrel-feeding, astrology-following vegan.
Me? I was a fashion-loving, chess-playing negrita
who quit at the top of my game.
We both know what it’s like to have our parents look at us
like we are dressed in neon question marks.
We also know exactly what it’s like to look at the other
& see all the answers of ourselves there.”
Their father took two wives. The wives each had daughters, just two months apart. Seventeen years later, the daughters are completing their respective junior years of high school. Comino lives in the Dominican Republic; Yaharia lives in New York City. Neither knows the other exists. CLAP WHEN YOU LAND is the story of these two sisters-of-other-mothers, and of the people who care for them.
Over those years, the girls’ father has spent school years operating his billiard parlor in New York, and his summers “away on business” in the DR. He was a passenger, aboard his annual flight to the Dominican Republic, when the airliner plunged into the Atlantic, killing everyone onboard.
Comino was unaware of her father’s other family. But Yaharia had actually learned her father had another wife. Last summer, she’d discovered the truth while digging through her father’s private paperwork--the result of a futile search for his DR phone number.
Furious at her father, Yaharia has barely spoken to him over the past year. But, not knowing whether anyone else knew about the deception, she has kept this knowledge to herself. What Yaharia doesn’t know is that she has a half-sister of essentially the exact same age, and that her father’s other wife died many years ago.
CLAP WHEN YOU LAND is narrated by the two sisters in alternating chapters. The narrations merge when the sisters meet up in the Dominican Republic to bury their father and get to know one another.
The story depicts the tough circumstances of many people in the Dominican Republic. Comino and her Aunt Tia, who has raised her since Comino’s mother’s death, have remained afloat only because of the money Comino’s father sent them. The money included tuition payments for a good-quality private school, an education that encouraged Comino to dream of attending college. And her father made payments to a local predator to keep his hands off of Comino. But what will happen now?
Filled with drama, danger, deception, and a lot of love, CLAP WHEN YOU LAND is a powerful novel in verse that will thrill young people. The publisher is playing it safe, recommending it for high schoolers. I’ve long advocated for middle schoolers reading SPEAK. I’d be pitching this one to those same seventh and eighth graders. I bet you’ll get a lot of thank you’s for doing so.
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA