Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
This book has blown me away! I had not known that Mexican Americans were also victims of segregation until I read this book.
This is the extraordinary story of a Mexican American family in the Los Angeles area in 1944 whose children were not able to enroll in their local school because of their ethnicity. Instead they were shunted over to a poorer, inferior school that served the Mexican population. Sylvia Mendez was turned away from the “white” school but her parents decided not to accept this injustice. They gathered a group of other Mexican Americans in the same situation, hired a lawyer, and went up against the school district. They won! Of course, appeals were launched but in the end justice prevailed.
The story is well told and the art is fabulous. It definitely shows the heritage of this Mexican artist in the folk art appearance of the art. Yet it is contemporary and very appealing. This is a book that lives up to the standards of strong non-fiction. It has an author’s note, photos of Sylvia and her family, a glossary, a bibliography, an index. How thorough is that? Abrams, the publisher, always takes care with the books they publish. This is a must have for teachers. It needs to be included in all civil rights units and any time Brown vs. the Board of Education is mentioned. The Mendez case preceded that case and laid the groundwork for its success. This is an amazing book.