I read this for my book club with Celia, not mindful of the beginning-of-the-academic-year timing, which was perfect.
Narrator Lizet Ramirez is a first-generation college student and second-generation Cuban-American born to teenaged parents. She is also the sister of a teen parent and the first kid from her high school to attend the fictional Rawlings College (presumably based on Cornell University). Her college-bound classmates, which doesn't not seem to be the majority of the graduates of Hialeah Lakes High School, go to Miami Dade Community College or Florida International University, both local. So she is, as we say in the academy, less academically prepared than much of the rest of the Rawlings class of 2003, and it's hard. Her family back home doesn't understand what life in the Ivy League is all about, or even why anyone would want to have anything to do with it.
Lizet begins to experience a dual identity and doesn't ever manage to merge the two. Her family accuses her of betraying them, and Lizet worries that it's true. It might be. She will spend the rest of her life not entirely fitting in with her family or her colleagues and hating herself for it, even while loving having left.
Anyway, great storyline, especially, as I said for folks who work with college students. The entering class at MPOW is 24% first-gen, and I feel a little more prepared myself to understand them. My main takeaway is that the kiddos can be too full of self-doubt to ask for help or say what's going on in their lives, or they flat-out don't know what's typical to say and do in college.
When talking about events taking place in her hometown, two blocks from her mother's house, Lizet gets called ghetto and racist, so even when she has more direct knowledge or expertise than her prep school dorm mates she feels shut down. Capó Crucet underscores a passage like that with borrowed clothes and a dried out highlighter pen as a metaphor for Lizet's struggle.
Despite its compelling theme, the book didn't totally engage me. It isn't the fastest read and I think is more valuable for the insight it provides into the life of a working class/academic code switcher. I wonder what Capó Crucet's memoir of her experience that seems to be the basis of Lizet's would have looked like.
I shouldn't finish this review without mentioning the significant plot line of an Elián González figure, Ariel Hernandez. People are fighting over Ariel, whether he should be allowed to remain in the United States to honor his dead mother's sacrifice, or returned to Cuba to be with his father, who wants him back. The thing is, though, that neither Lizet's parents nor her college are fighting for her. She has to do all the fighting herself, which could be why Make Your Home isn't an easy book to read.