Critic’s Corner

Introducing a new column where we let a Sunnyside student review a book, film, local restaurant or attraction.

Efrén Divided, by Ernesto Cisneros
A Book Review By Nadia Pozos, 11-year-old Sunnyside resident
and SES student

Most of us can’t relate to the constant threat that a family member could be taken from us. Author Ernesto Cisneros introduces us to the point of view of a school boy, Efrén, who has lived this way his entire life. Overnight Efrén is thrust into a new reality where he is taking care of his two younger siblings as his father works extra hours to pay for his mother’s return. 

Efrén, 12, is a lover of books, a supportive friend, and most of all someone who will do anything for his family. When his mom is deported by ICE (The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency) Efrén now has to support the family as though he were an adult. His dad works day and night, but it’s Efrén who takes the initiative to cut down on the family meal budget so they can save money faster. On top of it all, Efrén bears the burden of lying to his siblings about what happened to their mother.

Even Efrén’s “normal kid” problems are affected by his situation. Efrén goes to school, does his homework, and has a best friend, David. In the beginning, spending time with David is a highlight of his life. This changes when Efrén runs for class president—against David. In fact, Efrén is taking the place of (and standing up for) another classmate whose mother was also deported. Unfortunately, Efrén struggles to share his motivation with David, creating tension between them. 

When Efrén’s father is ready to make the journey to Mexico to deliver money to a coyote to get his wife home, Efrén volunteers to go in his stead. Efrén’s father agrees because he sees the logic that Efrén is a U.S. citizen, unlike him. Efrén bravely sets out alone to bring his mother the money for the coyote. Efrén is initially suspicious of the taxi driver that picks him up in Tijuana because of his tattoos and baggy blue jeans. As it turns out, the driver, Lalo, becomes a trusted friend—at one point saving Efrén from a threatening gang. This is just one of the twists and turns in this emotional roller coaster of a story.

Cisneros connects us to characters in the story, even when no words are being spoken. When Efrén and David are making campaign posters as they compete for class president, the tension is palpable. The silence between them is the conversation. “After a few failed attempts at drawing his name, he considered typing out the message, then printing and gluing the letters onto the poster. But then, out of nowhere, a pack of stencils fell on top of his supplies. He looked over and watched David retake his seat as if nothing had happened.”

I recommend this book to anyone looking to connect with the danger you’d face for someone you love. I learned about friendship, family, and why you shouldn’t judge someone before you get to know them. This book left me with a sense of wonder and a desire to make our immigration system more humane.

Nadia Pozos