Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida: A Novel
Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida: A Novel

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Annotation: Vibrant story of a Chicano boy's priorities, his family's life as Mexican Americans, and his brother's struggle with alcoholism.
Genre: Classics
Catalog Number: #229541
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
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Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
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Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition Date: 1998
Pages: 216 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-447186-1 Perma-Bound: 0-605-36605-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-447186-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-36605-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 96002119
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
For Mexican American teen Manuel, the main challenge in life, whether he always realizes it or not, is to find a reason to survive amid the negativity and emptiness that pervade his growing up in a city project. His father, unemployed and often drunk, is a source of tension for the whole family, especially Manuel's mother, whose determination to keep them all together is at times superhuman. The novel, written in a fluid, poetic language, resembles a series of vignettes more than one connected story; and this structure not only leaves the character development of Manuel and his family uneven but also generates a disjointedness that is occasionally confusing. There is also a general lack of basic information, such as the exact setting of the story and the ages of Manuel and his siblings, that may make the characters and their environment difficult for readers to visualize. However, the stories themselves, from Manuel's sister's miscarriage to his initiation into a gang to his grandmother's death, are not easily forgotten, and the book is worth purchasing for its authentic portrayal of a Hispanic teen's experiences. (Reviewed October 15, 1996)
Horn Book
Manny is a young Mexican-American teenager growing up in the projects in the Central Valley of California. His life is defined by his alcoholic unemployed father and eccentric, unpredictable family, his Chicano neighborhood, and a matter-of-fact but deep-rooted discrimination. Martinez uses metaphor and poetic language to tell stories of a culture still too rarely portrayed in books for young adults.
Kirkus Reviews
A whirlwind of surprising similes and inventive turns of phrase colorfully frame this grim, ultimately tender story, subtitled ``Mi Vida,'' about a young Chicano getting his priorities straight. It's a tough year for the Hernandez family: Manny's father is jailed after threatening his mother with a rifle, his older sister, Magda, is seeing someone on the sly, and his brother, Nardo, has taken to coming home drunk. Manny accidentally shoots at his little sister while fooling around with his father's gun and later watches as Magda miscarries on the bathroom floor. Still, he regards his family with affection and relates the disasters, along with other incidents away from home—not so much to deliver indictments as to open a window on the values, dreams, and tribulations that shape his life. Martinez's language is so lively it sometimes barrels beyond his control, calling attention to itself with a steady barrage of extravagant images (``blocks of fat sagged on her hips like a belt of thick Bibles'') and challenging metaphors (``Mom's shrieks chased away the panicked air; Dad's voice was coarse paper shredding to pieces''). There are also occasional (deliberate?) misuses, as when Nardo makes ``hairline escapes.'' The picture Manny paints of his world is not a pretty one, but it is unusually vibrant. (Fiction. 12-15)"
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-This contemporary novel, lyrically related in a series of vignettes, tells the story of a Mexican-American family's struggle to maintain its integrity in the face of poverty, discrimination, and cultural alienation. Manuel (Manny) Hernandez, second son in a family of four children, introduces readers to his unemployed father and strong but long-suffering mother, who bristles against her husband's ne'er-do-well tendencies while respecting his status as head of the household, as their culture dictates. Strong willed enough to send him to prison when he threatens her with a rifle, she cleans the house and welcomes him home when he is released, much to the frustration of her children. Intense emotions and bursts of violence flare up in this story, tempered by true love and family ties. Manny's sister Magda suffers a miscarriage as well as the recriminations of a Mexican hospital receptionist. Back at home in a moment of unanticipated tenderness, Manny's father gently cares for his daughter. Throughout, the powerful thread of this story is Manny's search for acceptance, laced with the adolescent angst that always accompanies such a quest. He maintains his personal integrity despite social humiliations and skirmishes with the law. Martinez writes with clear insight into the Chicano culture. His narrative is poetic, at times almost delicate, in depicting the joys, sorrows, and traumas of the Hernandez family. This novel will appeal to YAs in general and especially to Mexican-American readers.-Sylvia V. Meisner, Allen Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly
In his debut novel, set in a dusty California town, Martinez employs a series of compelling, frequently troubling vignettes to illuminate a Mexican American boy's coming of age. It's not easy for Manuel Hernandez to discover his place in the world, especially when he is constantly bombarded with the hardships of his poor and woefully dysfunctional family. Their tiny sheetrock house in the projects is the scene of angry arguments-even of threats at rifle point. Manny steps onto a battlefield at every turn, whether he is collecting his alcoholic and violent father from the local pool hall, withstanding the ethnic slurs of white school mates, or seeking initiation into a neighborhood gang. But as the months pass and some of his wounds heal, Manny slowly begins to understand the sense of self that he can derive from his role within this difficult household. The tense prose and often biting dialogue bring into razor-sharp focus the frustration and bitterness of a struggling family; at the same time, Manny's first-person narrative is tinged with compassion and, indeed, love for the unstable people around him. Martinez's honest voice, and descriptions sprinkled with elegant imagery, offer a rare and consummately believable portrait of barrio life. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Word Count: 44,063
Reading Level: 6.1
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 6.1 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 20130 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:7.1 / points:10.0 / quiz:Q08897
Lexile: 1000L

Dad believed people were like money. You could be a thousand-dollar person or a hundred-dollar person -- even a ten-, five-, or one-dollar person. Below that, everybody was just nickels and dimes. To my dad, we were pennies.

Fourteen-year-old Manny Hernandez wants to be more than just a penny. He wants to be a vato firme, the kind of guy people respect. But that′s not easy when your father is abusive, your brother can′t hold a job, and your mother scrubs the house as if she can wash her troubles away.

In Manny′s neighborhood, the way to get respect is to be in a gang. But Manny′s not sure that joining a gang is the solution. Because, after all, it′s his life -- and he wants to be the one to decide what happens to it.

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