Cecilia’s Year

By: Susan & Denise Gonzales Abraham
Fourteen-year-old Maria Cecilia Gonzales is a dreamer. She’s smart, for one thing, and she loves to read. Her books carry her far away, beyond the purple and blue mountains of the farm community she lives in, to high school and then on to a job in the big city.


Teachers' Guide

Classroom Handouts

Fourteen-year-old Maria Cecilia Gonzales is a dreamer. She's smart, for one thing, and she loves to read. Her books carry her far away, beyond the purple and blue mountains of the farm community she lives in, to high school and then on to a job in the big city.

But something stands in the way of her dreams. Cecilia is the second of six children and her oldest brother Elias doesn't like to study and isn't interested in going to high school. And, since it's the 1930s, just after the Depression, and since Cecilia and her family live in the quiet Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, Cecilia's stern mother won't let her go to high school unless Elias goes. That would cause Elias to lose face in their tight-knit community. And anyway, Cecilia's mother thinks her daughter's highest aim should be to run a home, to cook and sew and to raise children. Elias' only ambition is to be a farmer and no amount of cajoling by Cecilia seems to change his mind. As Cecilia struggles to fulfill her goals, she experiences a deep appreciation for her family and the first tender feelings of romantic love. Susan and Denise Gonzales Abraham have woven the story of Cecilia's dreams into the months of the year, the land and the crops, and the routine life on a farm. The real Cecilia is Susan and Denise's mother. This, their first novel, is a tribute to her and to the deep roots of their family in rural New Mexico.

Awards and Accomodations

The New York Public Library List, Books for the Teen Age
ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Silver Winner, 2004
Best Book for Young Adults, Texas Institute of Letters

7 reviews for Cecilia’s Year

  1. School Library Journal
    Covering a year in the life of a Depression-era girl in a Hispanic household in rural New Mexico, this book is a tribute to a quiet heroine. As children of the real Cecilia, the authors offer an episodic account of a 14-year-old who desperately wants to go to high school at a time when most girls were expected to work at home. The cultural details are vivid and integrated into the story, providing a rich context and a snapshot of an entire community. A concluding note tells what happened to Cecilia as an adult. This fictionalized biography succeeds on several levels. Each chapter takes place during one month and has the feel of a complete short story while carrying readers along as Cecilia’s determination to be something more than a good farm wife and mother bumps up against tough opposition. Spanish proverbs and family photos round out this vivid story of one young woman’s determination to follow her dream.

  2. Midwest Book Review
    Cecilia’s Year is a young adult novel about the dreams of a Latina girl living in rural New Mexico. She dreams of traveling far beyond her farm community, to experience high school and a job in the big city she knows through books, yet her mother feels her highest goal in life should be to run a home, cook, sew, and raise children. Written as a tribute to the author’s mother, Cecilia’s Year explores the tribulations of growing up and determining one’s own destiny, in a heartfelt manner sure to resonate with anyone striving to find their place in the world.

  3. Booklist
    Cecilia Gonzales is nearly 14, a book-loving, excellent student, and dirt poor. She lives in rural New Mexico on her family’s farm with five siblings, her parents, and an aunt. It’s a hard life, just barely post-Depression–the children go barefoot, receive an orange or nuts for Christmas, and work hard from a very early age–but it’s supported by family closeness and respect for traditions. Cecilia dreams of leaving the farm, going to high school, and working in a big city, but her mother is intent that she should become a farm housewife. Told in brief episodes tied to the months of the year, this tribute to the authors’ mother will attract readers who enjoyed books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Alma Flor Ada. The authors describe a way of life now extinct in the urban U.S., but which some readers growing up in rural areas or immigrant families may recognize. Vintage sepia-toned photos open each chapter, and a Spanish glossary of proverbs will aid the non-Spanish-speaking reader.

  4. Kliatt
    J* (indicates a book of exceptional material): The conflict is evident from the first page. An avid reader stealing time away from her numerous chores, 14-year-old Cecilia, who lives in rural New Mexico, wants to go to high school, while her mother thinks book learning is unnecessary to someone destined to be a farm wife—sort of a Mexican Little House on the Prairie. The action centers on the seasons of the year, the hard work required from everyone on the farm for survival as each month passes, and how each person’s life is tuned to the rhythm of the seasons and the harvest. A further aim of the novel is to reveal the folk beliefs, customs and interdependence in the Hispanic community throughout the year.

    Spanish phrases are sprinkled liberally throughout the text and then loosely translated into English. The authors say that this book is about a real girl (their mother), who grew up to leave the farm and had many international adventures, mingling with presidents during a long career. This is an excellent book for young Latinas, showing the richness of their heritage, and a good way to introduce all girls to the variety of backgrounds that make up American life.

  5. New Mexico Kids!
    This story follows 14-year-old Cecilia through one year of her life on a rural New Mexico farm. She is an ambitious and intelligent Latina who dreams of graduating from high school, then living and working in the grand cities she has never seen. However, her mother will not allow her to attend high school unless her older brother, Elias, also passes the entrance exam. Mama is of the mindset that young women should not be seen as smarter than men, that a lady’s place is in the kitchen, raising her husband’s children.

    Cecilia has a deep love of her family, her heritage, and her hometown. She and her family are very close-knit, and they draw support from each other to make it through the hardships that face them. Illness and the possible foreclosure of their farm bring this family even closer together. Cecilia must also work through issues that all her children her age face, such as romantic relationships with boys and jealousy of her wealthy cousins.

    The authors paint a beautiful and vivid canvas of life in rural New Mexico and Latino traditions. Cecilia’s struggle is one that most young people face. This is the point in life when they must have the strength to spread their wings and find their own place in the world, despite what anyone else may expect from them. This book will speak to anyone with a dream and the courage to follow it into the dark places where it will almost certainly lead the dreamer.

  6. Review of Texas Books
    Generational Differences within Hispanic Culture
    This young adult novel presents Maria Cecilia Gonzales, a fourteen-year-old dreamer. Cecilia’s mother does not understand her daughter’s desire for more education and a job in the big city. Mrs. Gonzales believes Cecilia’s highest aim should be to cook, sew, and raise children. Mama sees the books her daughter reads as “trouble,” while Cecilia views them as “treasures.” The gripping question raised early in the novel is whether Cecilia will be allowed to attend high school, thus furthering her education.

    This novel offers a perspective of family dynamics and their consequences on people’s actions and reactions, the generational debates between parents and children, and the encompassing love that allows children to grow and mature into the adults they wish to become. Likewise, the story presents a fascinating look at the Hispanic culture surrounding the Gonzales family. Highly recommended for all public and private libraries.

  7. Yellow Brick Road
    It is the 1930’s and Cecilia is growing up in the quiet Rio Grande valley. Cecilia’s fondest dream is to go to high school. But barriers include her older brother who doesn’t like to study and doesn’t want to go to high school, so Cecilia won’t be able to go either. Fans of Anne of Green Gables or the Little House series will like Cecilia.

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