The backstory: Vanessa Diffenbaugh's first novel, The Language of Flowers, has been on my TBR list since it came out, yet I never got around to it. When I saw her speak at the American Library Association conference this summer, I was wowed, and vowed to read both her books.
The basics: We Never Asked for Wings is the story of Letty, an American born to Mexican parents in the U.S. She works as a bartender, and her parents have largely raised her two children, Alex, fifteen, and Luna, six. Life is hard for Letty and her children, and she vows to find a way to move to a good neighborhood in the San Francisco area before Alex starts high school.
My thoughts: It took me about twenty minutes to get my bearings in We Never Asked for Wings. It's hard for me to tell sometimes if that's the novel or the act of listening on audio, and Diffenbaugh is intentionally vague in the opening scene. In this case, it may also due to the fact that based on her comments at ALA, I knew this novel was about education. Once I figured out what was happening, I became enchanted with this novel. It did take some time for the education themes to come in, but these characters and their situation captivated me. I listened to this novel compulsively. Any time I had a spare thirty seconds, I listened. (Seriously, when watching a show with Mr. Nomadreader, and he left the room to refill our wine, I listened.)
I didn't just listen because of the story. From hearing Diffenabaugh speak and from seeing how she set up the story, I was as interested in how she would attach emotional heft to the weighty themes of the American dream, education, immigration, and opportunity. These themes are all powerful for me, and thankfully, Diffenbaugh uses these characters to tell a story that is much bigger than them without oversimplifying the myriad complexities that present themselves in this story.
The verdict: Diffenbaugh deftly uses these characters to explore big issues. She takes the issues to expected and unexpected places, and the result is an emotionally authentic look at education and immigration. This book is enchanting, even if a few plot points seemed a bit too convenient. We Never Asked for Wings is a dynamic novel that will stay with me for a long time.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 11 hours 41 minutes (320 pages)
Publication date: August 18, 2015
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy We Never Asked for Wings from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Vanessa Diffenbaugh's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
|Vanessa Diffenbaugh speaking at ALA 2015.|
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