Becoming Beatriz

By: Tami Charles

Up until her fifteenth birthday, the most important thing in the world to Beatriz Mendez was her dream of becoming a professional dancer and getting herself and her family far from the gang life that defined their days—that, and meeting her dance idol Debbie Allen on the set of her favorite TV show, Fame. But after the latest battle in a constant turf war leaves her gang leader brother, Junito, dead and her mother grieving, Beatriz has a new set of priorities. How is she supposed to feel the rhythm when her gang needs running, when her mami can’t brush her own teeth, and when the last thing she can remember of her old self is dancing with her brother, followed by running and gunshots? When the class brainiac reminds Beatriz of her love of the dance floor, her banished dreams sneak back in. Now the only question is: will the gang let her go?

Author’s note. Further information about gangs and drug dealing in 1980s Newark, the ACT-SO contest, and Debbie Allen.

ISBN: 9781580897785

JLG Release: Nov 2019


Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Homophobic slur, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Violence, Domestic abuse, Marijuana dealing
Topics: Puerto Ricans , Newark, New Jersey , Haitian Americans , Hispanic and Latino people , Gangs , Female gang members , Dance , The 1980s , Identity

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Booklist, School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine, Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal

It is the mid-1980s and Beatriz worships the TV show Fame. Her mom brought Beatriz and her brother, Junito, to New Jersey from Puerto Rico to escape their abusive father who particularly targeted Junito for not being masculine enough. Beatriz dreams of dancing professionally like her inspiration, Debbie Allen, but when Junito is murdered by Haitian It is the mid-1980s and Beatriz worships the TV show Fame. Her mom brought Beatriz and her brother, Junito, to New Jersey from Puerto Rico to escape their abusive father who particularly targeted Junito for not being masculine enough. Beatriz dreams of dancing professionally like her inspiration, Debbie Allen, but when Junito is murdered by Haitian gang leaders, she steps up her involvement with the Diablos, their Newark gang. A Shakespearean twist brings the beautiful and nerdy Haitian Nasser into Beatriz’s life. Nasser’s multifaceted brilliance inevitably wins Beatriz’s heart and leads her back to her passion and commitment to music. Family and school dynamics are spot-on as authority figures range from completely clueless to vitally aware. The language is improbably tame at times for a girl who conceals a razor blade in her cheek every day, but the accurate and immersive ‘80s music, fashion, and historical references outweigh these scattered lapses. Some of the Spanish dialogue is defined by context, but English monolingual readers may need to translate a few phrases or miss out on details. Similar to The Hate U Give, this book offers readers painful and intimate experiences with injustice through an intensely effective first-person narrative. Compelling romance with insightful commentary on racial, cultural, and LGBTQ discrimination alongside the realistic depiction of gang dependency and its impact.

Horn Book

Charles (Like Vanessa, rev. 3/18) presents the story of an Afro–Puerto Rican teen, Beatriz Mendez, who is torn between her own desire to be a dancer and the expectations of her blood and chosen families in mid-1980s New Jersey. After the gang-related murder of her brother, Junito, Beatriz feels responsible for taking on his role as leader Charles (Like Vanessa, rev. 3/18) presents the story of an Afro–Puerto Rican teen, Beatriz Mendez, who is torn between her own desire to be a dancer and the expectations of her blood and chosen families in mid-1980s New Jersey. After the gang-related murder of her brother, Junito, Beatriz feels responsible for taking on his role as leader of the Diablos gang. Failing in school and dealing with her mom’s sadness, Beatriz sets aside her love for dance. However, when her favorite TV show, Fame, announces a casting call for extras, Beatriz must try to balance her “gang life” with her “dance life.” Can she navigate between the two, or will she finally be honest with herself and choose to follow her dreams? Through Beatriz’s voice, Charles presents a strong, smart, and sometimes snarky teenager who is trying to gain control of her choices, to finally become her true self; and whose family has encountered abuse and injustice and developed mechanisms of survival. Integral to the story are explorations of the 1980s drug epidemic and its impact on Black and Latinx communities; machismo and homophobia in Puerto Rican communities; and media and dreams as ways to escape one’s realities or to find new ones. An author’s note and information about gangs and the 1980s drug epidemic, Debbie Allen (dancer, choreographer, and star of Fame), and ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics) are appended.

Book Details

ISBN

9781580897785

First Release

November 2019

Genre

Fic

Dewey Classification

F

Trim Size

8 1/4" x 5 1/2"

Page Count

272

Accelerated Reader

Level 0; Points: 0;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 0; Points: 0;

Lexile

Level

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Charlesbridge Teen

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Criminal culture, Homophobic slur, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Violence, Domestic abuse, Marijuana dealing

Topics

Puerto Ricans, Newark, New Jersey, Haitian Americans, Hispanic and Latino people, Gangs, Female gang members, Dance, The 1980s, Identity,

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