A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Spanish words and phrases, some aren't translated but provide context clues. Insight into the dangers and difficulties of getting into the United States, especially from Central America.
When you see or hear something hateful or hurtful to others, especially to a group of people, speak up; don't let it become normal or acceptable. Just make sure you find truly productive ways to speak up that can close gaps between people instead of widen them. Who you are as a person should matter more than who you are on paper. Where you're born ultimately determines the borders of your life, the things blocking your way, the places you belong, or even that none of these are a problem for you. People are individuals; try to get to know them as individuals and not as a member of a group, race, or ethnicity.
Positive Role Models
Liliana is a good role model for strong family and friendship bonds, academic and artistic achievement, empathy, and learning how to deal with the barriers that life puts in her way. She helps take care of her family's apartment and her younger brothers. Lots of positive representations of people of color in the diverse cast of family, friends, and fellow students. Liliana's mother is emotionally absent as she sinks into depression and is overprotective and strict, but it's out of love. Her father is absent physically but Liliana has lots of fond memories of his wisdom and of how he exposed her to new places and ideas even at a young age.
Violence & Scariness
A character remembers a drunk man punching a wall, hitting his child, and a fight with kicking and punching that causes a child to crash through a glass table; lots of blood is mentioned but not described. A fight with yelling and crying is heard, later a character appears with a swollen face implying that she was hit by her grandmother. A school assembly erupts into racist shouts and the audience throwing books, pencils, and other objects at the presenters.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few kisses and making out once or twice that aren't described in detail. Condoms mentioned and female condom samples are passed around a sex ed class. One character mentions needing a tampon, and another brings up some cultural taboos about using them.
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"S--t," "f--king," "bitch," "ass," "pissed," "sucked," and "nigga" as an example in a group discussion.
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Products & Purchases
A few food, beverage, and restaurant brands mentioned incidentally.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A memory ties a very drunk man to violence. Mention that adults had Coronas at parties. Mention of past drug abuse and a neighbor who's a drug addict. A teen rolls notebook paper to look like a blunt. Mention that something smells like stale weed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Don't Ask Me Where I'm From is a coming-of-ager with a lot of positive Latinx representation in the main characters and a diverse group of supporting characters. It tells the story of Liliana, a high-school sophomore and first-generation American who finds out she's been accepted into a program that will transfer her fom her gritty Boston neighborhood.neighborhood to a wealthy, white, suburban high school 20 miles away, and she feels conflicted about it. Infrequent strong language includes "s--t," "f--king" and"bitch," and a group discussion mentions using "nigga." A memory of a past violent incident involving a drunk man mentions a lot of blood when a child falls through a glass table, but there's no gore or detail. It's implied that a teen was hit by her grandmother from overheard yelling and crying, and the teen later appearing with a swollen face. Aside from the drunk man, the only other mention of alcohol is a memory of adults drinking beer at parties. A character remembers their mother's past drug use and mention that a neighbor is a drug addict. Parental absence and fear of loss is a prominent theme. Overall messages are positive about dealing with barriers and seeing people as individuals rather than skin colors. Lots of food for thought about immigration, identity, opportunities, barriers, and more.
Is It Any Good?
Author Jennifer De Leon's debut novel is an engaging and thought-provoking story that will get readers thinking about lots of important personal, political, and cultural issues. Readers of color will find a lot of positive representation, and all teens will find plenty to relate to in Liliana and her experiences. Don't Ask Me Where I'm From inspires empathy and encourages getting to know people as individuals instead of types or skin colors by emphasizing that no single group's experience or background is the same for everyone in that group.
The story contains few surprises and sometimes the plot slows a bit or seems a bit repetitive. But teens will relate to Liliana and her friends, and hopefully be inspired not just to pursue their dreams but to put in the hard work it takes to learn something new and make a difference. And of course to appreciate and empathize with others' life experiences.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.