All the Stars Denied

Title: All the Stars Denied
Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Publisher: Tu Books
Pages: 318
Genre: Historical
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: ARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss & final copy via library

Summary: In the heart of the Great Depression, Rancho Las Moras, like everywhere else in Texas, is gripped by the drought of the Dust Bowl, and resentment is building among white farmers against Mexican Americans. All around town, signs go up proclaiming “No Dogs or Mexicans” and “No Mexicans Allowed.”

When Estrella organizes a protest against the treatment of tejanos in their town of Monteseco, Texas, her whole family becomes a target of “repatriation” efforts to send Mexicans “back to Mexico” –whether they were ever Mexican citizens or not. Dumped across the border and separated from half her family, Estrella must figure out a way to survive and care for her mother and baby brother. How can she reunite with her father and grandparents and convince her country of birth that she deserves to return home?

There are no easy answers in the first YA book to tackle this hidden history.

In a companion novel to her critically acclaimed Shame the Stars, Guadalupe Garcia McCall tackles the hidden history of the United States and its first mass deportation event that swept up hundreds of thousands of Mexican American citizens during the Great Depression.

Review: Estrella is a fifteen year-old with an appreciation of nature and poetry. She loves sitting outside observing and reflecting on the world around her. That world is beginning to turn upside-down though. People are disappearing. Restrictive laws and violence targeting Mexicans are both increasing. Estrella’s family had kept her feeling safe and secure, but things were changng rapidly.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall allows readers to get a glimpse of Texas in the depression era and the picture is not a pretty one. Most history books skip over the details. The depression was a difficult time yes, but there was an added challenge if you were Mexican or even seemed to be Mexican. Families were being separated and repatriated. Of course, repatriation is just another word for deportation and this was even happening to US citizens who had never lived in Mexico.

Estrella and her family don’t sit by and just watch all of these things happening. They speak out and work for change. This makes them a target. Even Estrella’s parents don’t fully realize how vulnerable they are. They still believe that their citizenship means something. That papers and lawyers actually carry weight.

Unfortunately, this story has many parallels to what we see happening in our country in the present time. Some of the policies put into place back then are eerily familiar. It was impossible to read this story without thinking of current news stories.

Readers will feel the frustrations of Estrella and her mother as they push up against one roadblock after another. The injustices just keep piling up over time. There are racist systems in place, but Estrella and her mother are also disadvantaged by their gender. They keep fighting though. When they are frustrated and face setbacks, they look for things that are within their control and move forward. Estrella is full of hope and determination.

As in her previous novel, Shame the Stars, McCall combines narrative text with poems, snippets from newspapers, telegrams, and other bits of realia that add to the feeling of looking back into the past.

The resolution is a bit rushed, but otherwise, the pacing worked well. Overall, the book is a page turner and will stick with me for a long time.

Recommendation: Get it now especially if you enjoyed Shame the Stars. It’s a fantastic work of historical fiction that fills in some of the history that may be missing from textbooks and classrooms.

Extra: Shame the Stars [My review]