I’ve been following Meg Medina’s work since she won the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award in 2012 for Tia Isa Wants a Car. Following my read of this delightful picture book drawn from her own childhood experience with an aunt, I enjoyed her narrative in The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind based in Latin American culture as she dips into a bit of magical realism with children looking to the future as parents try to hold onto old ways. In a harder novel, that I reviewed in this blog, in “Twice Sorry, Once Pleased,” she won the Pura Belpré Author award for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass featuring a Latina teen who faces a bully at her new school.
Having learned Meg’s ability to connect with her intended audience from young children through teenagers, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read her latest Burn, Baby, Burn. The novel is set in New York city in the summer of 1977 in a community with nerves on edge as the Son of Sam killer seems to be striking at will. Family responsibility falls on seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez who copes with a brother now on drugs after being spoiled, excused, and indulged by her mother; a father who leaves her, her mother, and her brother waiting for a support check while he indulges his new family in an upscale lifestyle; and a landlord hounding them for rent money. That’s all before her mother loses her job. Page-turning tension holds until the very last pages.
For those who remember the Son of Sam summer, the compelling narrative rings true to history. It also rings true for teenagers like Nora who lack a picture perfect life and must become the adults in their families before it is time.
I’m caught up with wonder at Meg’s ability to write well in such a variety of genres – lighthearted picture books, intriguing magic realism, and heart-wrenching YA historical fiction. The consistent thread I’ve found in her work is the view she gives into her Latina culture. I’m anticipating my next view through that window.