When I was a girl, the end of the school year was my favorite time, hands down.
I’m sure it had something to do with the prospect of weeks and weeks of freedom to run around the family farm playing and exploring, to read all day and not have some pesky teacher telling me I needed to put the book down and learn about fractions (completely unnecessary things as long as you know how much sugar and flour to put in your cookie recipes). Oh, the joy of spending days on end at the barn, riding horses and swimming in the river.
Yes, all those things were perfectly lovely. But the real joy of the end of the school year was the notebooks. I would beg, borrow and steal every single partially-used notebook I could find from classmates and siblings and make a careful pile in my room, just waiting to be filled with words.
Then, over the next year, until the next bout of pre-summer cleaning, I would write and write and write in these notebooks, words that just couldn’t be contained for one more second. If I didn’t put the words somewhere, my heart would certainly explode from trying to hold them.
That is how readers find Ana Rosa in The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph. She’s a young girl living in the Dominican Republic, a country filled with poverty and corruption. A big brother who takes care of the family, a mother who quietly steers the family and keeps peace through heartache and secrets, and a father who spends most days completely saturated with rum fill out the cast of characters.
Ana Rosa wants to be a writer more than anything, and the words in her head can’t be subdued. The story follows the sweet, earnest girl as she navigates the spaces between fiction, poetry and reality, none of which are so far away from each other. At the same time, she must confront truths about her community, her family and her country.
Heartbreaking but warm, this very short novel pulls me in every time I read it. It’s one that stays on my bookshelf every time I give a few more books to friends or Goodwill, and that remains true during my current book project.
This book is for anyone who has someone telling them they can’t do something, for anyone who writes or wants to write and for anyone who simply wants to see the world through the eyes of a girl on the brink of her future. It’s a short read—a preteen novel; so if you find it at the library, sit down in the corner and dive right in.