Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh Book Review

Separate is Never Equal:Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Release Date: May 6, 2014

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end segregation in California. An American Citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent who spoke perfect English, Sylvia was denied enrollment in her local school, being told that she had to attend a Mexican school down the road because she was dirty and didn't speak English. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to segregated education in California.

Not being from California or of Latin American descent, this was an area of history in which my education was sorely lacking. Logically, I knew that there must have been some kind of precedent or court case that integrated schools, but I just imagined that it happened during the civil rights movement or possibly a little earlier as it did in the north. This was a very well done biographical account concerning this family and court case. The illustrations had a distinct ethnic folksy quality that really brought life to these "characters". Emphasis is placed not just on the court case and racism, but also on how government and wealth works with poor communities. Despite such complex subjects Tonatiuh adeptly explains it in a way that young readers will understand and empathize.

I can definitely see this as a great addition to a classroom or learning environment.