Tommy Stands Tall is listed on the 50 Latino Children's Books You Should Know list by Mamiverse. Read full list here.
Velásquez’s pages move quickly and easily with a breezy style that almost makes readers feel like they are overhearing another’s conversation. In some ways reminiscent of a TV after-school special from the 1970s, the narrative raises issues and problems in order to solve them, intent both on telling an interesting story and encouraging readers to believe in and work toward better days. Readers who desire a more in-depth and literary treatment of the difficulties of accepting oneself and coming out as a gay young man—especially perhaps in a Latino family—might turn to Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Nonetheless, Velásquez’s short novel is earnest without being cloying, and a quick read well suited for reluctant readers. Read full review here.
An issue-driven novel chronicling the experiences of a high school senior and his friends as they deal with issues connected to sexual orientation.
Tomás "Tommy" Montoya is a senior at Roosevelt High, previously suicidal and bullied at school because he is gay. The ostracism of gays and lesbians-particularly in Hispanic communities-is a strong theme in the book, though other members of the LGBTQ community are rarely mentioned. When Albert, a fellow student, is badly beaten, Tommy reaches out, sensing Albert is gay and the victim of a hate crime, an action that eventually leads Tommy to found a Gay/Straight Alliance Club. Velásquez paints the issues with a broad brush, portraying the students from the school's Christian Club as intolerant and giving all characters who display homophobic behavior religious reasoning-an easy polarization that does not line up with reality. Strangely, Tommy's first-person narration is interspersed with chapters in the voice of therapist Ms. Martínez, an adult, whose story revolves around her suspicion that her younger brother, who committed suicide, was gay. With sometimes-clunky dialogue and minimal characterization, this book is admirable primarily for addressing the plight of gay and lesbian teens in Latino communities.
A decent choice for reluctant and struggling readers, as well as those interested in the struggles of gay and lesbian teens. (Fiction. 14-18)
This eighth novel in Velásquez’s Roosevelt High School Series tells the stories of two Hispanic grandmothers who are experiencing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and the grief and mixed feelings that their progressive dementia causes to their families. Both abuelas are named María, and their individual journeys are narrated from the perspectives of two close family members. One of them is Rudy, a senior, who sees how his home is falling apart when his confused grandmother comes to live with them at a very small house. Rudy’s voice is compassionate and gives readers a glimpse into the life and traditions of a working-class family. The other voice is Sonia Gonzalez, a teacher at Rudy’s school, who is reluctant to accept her mother’s mental illness and refuses to put her in a nursing home. Gonzalez’s internal battle depicts an inspirational and positive portrayal of the families affected by Alzheimer’s. Educational and at the same time compelling, the novel raises teenagers’ awareness on a topic considered taboo among Latinos. (glossary) (Fiction. YA)
When Tyrone’s father, a habitual drinker, abandons his family after an angry argument with his wife, the young man feels deeply betrayed and bitter toward his father. Although a senior at Roosevelt High and formerly a model student, Tyrone allows his resentment and frustration to spill over into outbursts of temper at school, and much to his mother’s distress, he soon quits school and gets a job to help support his family. Enter Dr. Sandra Martinez, a local counselor who had casually met Tyrone through his Chicano girlfriend, Maya. At her concerned urging, Tyrone reluctantly agrees to meet with the coordinator of the newly opened Teen Resource Center, a man who has great success helping at-risk African American and Chicano youths. Skeptical at first, Tyrone is later so well impressed with this man’s good work that he begins to attend the Center and then returns to school. He even changes his intended college major from engineering to social work to help other teens. Eventually and despite Tyrone’s clear opposition, his now contrite father returns home, eager to make amends to his family by attending AA meetings regularly. Gradually Tyrone’s attitude also changes, and the teenager realizes how much he really loves and has missed his dad.
In this Roosevelt High School series entry, Velasquez’s easy writing style and true-to-life language will capture teens’ attention. The credible characters along with the well-developed if somewhat simplistic plot also make for entertaining and inspiring reading. The glossary helps with the many Spanish phrases and idioms used throughout. This award-winning writer’s highly acclaimed series provides not only positive role models but also constructive ideas for resolving social and cultural issues often facing multiracial teens.
The seventh book in the Roosevelt High series featuring multiracial characters in an urban setting is in the same vein as the previous six. The language is simple, the plot unrealistic at times, and the dialogue stilted. Yet they will have great appeal to the teen reader. They are fast reads, excellent for the reluctant reader, as the flat characters will be recognizable to the urban teen. The series is plot driver, not character, and the average reader will care less about those literary elements.
Tyrone, angry that his alcoholic father has left home, has to assume the role of the man of the family. His life descends quickly into drinking, skipping school, eventually quitting school, and hanging with less than desirable buddies. He does, however, pull himself together, and go to work to help his mother with the family bills. His psychologist, Dr. Martinez, introduces him to a man who runs a program for angry young men and the reader hopes for Tyrone’s turnaround. With everyone’s help, he does return to school with the hopes of eventually becoming an engineer.
His mother agrees to forgive her husband and the father returns home—much to Tyrone’s disbelief and outrage. Will Tyrone accept his mother’s decision? Can a person change? This novel could serve as an introduction to repentance and forgiveness issues and would create a fascinating discussion topic.
Tyrone is a senior in high school looking forward to graduating when his life is turned upside down after his father walks out on the family following a heated argument with his mother. Struggling with anger toward his father, Tyrone eventually drops out of school so he can work to help pay the family’s bills. His mother and school officials encourage him to go back to school and consider his future if he goes to college. Tyrone has a lot of hard thinking to do and decisions to make. This is a good book for teens wondering whether they can make it in life if they drop out of school.
Tommy is "out" and comfortable with that, although this was not always the case. A couple of years ago, he attempted suicide. His mom and best friend, Maya, are supportive, but his dad is still struggling with acceptance. When the new kid at school is beaten and hospitalized because he might be gay, Tommy decides he need to do something to change the homophobic atmosphere at his school. So he and his friends start a Gay/Straight Alliance group at their school.
This is a great story about a diverse group of students who decide to take a stand. The lessons about diversity and acceptance are clear. There’s a sub-plot about a psychologist who comes to realize that her brother was probably gay and may have committed suicide. I liked that the characters were culturally and racially diverse and the message is clear and positive. It’s an easy read, but not so simplified as to be insulting to teens.
I do think, however, that the story sometimes becomes a bit heavy-handed and didactic to the point of “preachy”. Another minor concern is the quality of the art on the cover. I think it could have been more crisp and clear; maybe a photo instead of a painting would have been better. It seems to make the book seem lesser somehow. (But the painting is actually a good likeness of a teen boy.)
Having said that, there is a clear need for stories about students of color, particularly Hispanic students, and this series (The Roosevelt High Series) fills that need. The book is very readable with very little profanity and no sexual content that references to homosexuality and “liking” other boys/girls. This makes it suitable for all teens. I will be recommending this title to my students and plan to purchase others in the series for my high school.
Tommy is excited to finally be a senior at Roosevelt High School. There was a time when he thought he’d never graduate, especially after he tried to kill himself to avoid dealing with his sexual orientation. But with the help of his friends, he has accepted who he is, come out to his family and friends and is preparing for college next year.
But when Albert, a new student at Roosevelt High, is beaten so badly he winds up in the emergency room, Tommy can’t help but wonder if he was attacked because he’s gay. Soon, rumors about Albert are reverberating down the school’s hallways, and Tommy fears Albert might seek the same solution he himself did two years before. Tommy visits Ms. Martinez, the counselor who helped him come to terms with his sexuality, who reminds him about his idea to start a Gay Straight Alliance Club at Roosevelt High. Suddenly, he realizes how he can help Albert.
In spite of being busy with school, his job at the local theater and tutoring a young im- migrant boy, Tommy finds other students—both gay and straight—interested in starting a club to raise awareness and seek equality for gay students. But will it really make a dif- ference? Will they be able to modify the school’s anti-discrimination code? And will the group be able to help Albert?
Tommy Stands Tall is the ninth novel in Gloria L. Velásquez’s popular Roosevelt High School series, which features a multiracial group of teenaged students who must individually confront social and cultural issues (such as violence, sexuality and prejudice) that young adults face today. This is the second novel that follows Tommy’s story, which began in Tommy Stands Alone (Piñata Books, 1995).
Gloria L. Velásquez is the author of the Roosevelt High School Series, which now comprises nine novels, and two poetry collections, I Used to Be a Superwoman (Arte Público Press, 1997) and Xicana on the Run (Chusma House Pub- lications, 2005). She lives in San Luis Obispo, where she is a professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Depart- ment at California Polytechnic State University.
In this eloquent and eminently readable collection of poems, Gloria Velásquez, poet, novelist, and professor, expresses her desire to experience life fully, to be her own woman, even at the cost of becoming Superwoman. The cover illustration mimics the superhero comic genre by depicting a determined woman with six arms juggling domestic implements as well as her university book bag against a gigantic “S” in the background. “Superwoman Chicana,” the title poem reveals the multiplicity of roles that turn her into “the super-pendeja Chicana, very very tired, and fed up.” According to Velásquez, for a Hispanic woman the only way out of a barrio, the fields, or the hotel rooms is a college degree: Edúcate mujer / Adelante mujer / the future is yours. Contrary to the expectations of her machista culture, she dares to leave her husband and raise her child alone in order to get an education, thus inspiring others who fight the uphill battle for liberation.
Otherness provides the context for much of the poetry by this Mexican-American woman. Surrounded by Anglo society, marginalized by her Chicana identity, Velásquez nonetheless takes pride in her heritage: “Children of the Sun, the earth pleasures in your burned, bronzed body. This is Aztlán / where my people were born / My ancestors didn’t come on ships / across the ocean blue.” Her response to the question, “Who am I?” is that she embodies all women of Hispanic heritage and history, la Malinche, la Virgen de Guadalupe, la Llorona, the undocumented woman laborer, the revolutionary Chicana, crying out for human rights and equality. The Chicana draws her strength from other female role models.
The author’s Roosevelt High series (Juanita Fights the School Board, Tommy Stands Alone, etc.) turns to the issue of unwanted teenage pregnancy and explores how a 15-year-old Latina, her family, and her friends cope with it. Like other books in the series for the most part, Martinez, a counselor whose miscarriage and resulting depression parallel teenaged Celia’s discovery of her pregnancy and the attendant crises that raises, has an already established but unexplained relationship not only with Celia and her family but with all her friends as well.
While Celia’s problems, and how they affect others in her life, are clearly presented, the approach here is uncomplicated and linear: girl is used by young man, girl keeps her pregnancy a secret, girl is shunned by father when secret is discovered, girl is restored to family through the intercession of an understanding counselor who also gets girl into an idealized program for pregnant high school students. High school students themselves will not find Celia’s story very engaging, although their younger sisters could. On the other hand, Martinez’s story needs a mature audience to appreciate her psychological misery and the effect of the miscarriage on her marital relationship. Perhaps the best audience for this book would be adults learning to read English who have advanced beyond basic literary but who need a simple storyline to follow through a text and concerns that invite discussion. Francisca Goldsmith, Teen Services, Berkeley P.L., Berkeley, CA
J—recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.
Teen pregnancy is a delicate, important issue. How can one discuss the possibility, probability, and consequences without preaching? How can one discuss the options? This book supplies some of the answers in a compelling form.
Celia is a young Latina woman from a strict, close-knit family. She is hooked on a soap called Teen Angel. When her best friend’s delinquent cousin comes to visit and shows interest in her, Celia confuses her life with the soap opera. The night she loses her virginity to Nicky is the night she gets pregnant. The boy dumps her after their encounter and leaves town. When Celia confides in her older sister, Juanita, her sister in turn confides in their parents, and Celia is thrown out of the house as an embarrassment. Her older brother, Carlos, takes her in.
Help comes from Sandra Martinez, a counselor Juanita knows. Ms. Martinez is reluctant to help at first because she is severely traumatized by the recent miscarriage of her own much-wanted child. However, she knows that without knowledge of options, Celia has no future, and that there are choices for Celia to continue her education and learn parenting skills.
Other writers would have opted for a tidy cohesion of the storylines. Sandra Martinez would have offered to adopt Celia’s baby and Celia would go back to being a teenager.
Fortunately, Velasquez does not take the easy way out. She gives equal weight to the obstacles both characters must overcome, both without and within. She never loses compassion for her characters, and she treats the situation with supreme integrity. In standing by her characters’ truths, she allows the reader to care even more deeply.
Velasquez created the Roosevelt High School Series to reflect modern diversity and encourage understanding and tolerance. This is the fifth book in her series, and one of the best young adult novels on the market today. It is difficult, hopeful and loving. It should be required reading in every high school in the country. May she write many more.