Set in San Antonio, Texas, in the 1990's, White Bread Competition is the story of Luz and what she goes through after being selected as the first Latina student to represent her state in a spelling bee competition. At its heart, it is also the story of the various women who are also affected by Luz's achievement.
Fourteen-year old Luz is the 'light' of the household. She's not only beautiful, but unusually smart and ambitious. When she is selected to represent her state in the competition, her family is overjoyed. However, being a winner isn't always easy, especially if you're Latina. Her younger sister becomes secretly jealous; her mother and grandmother become exalted and argue about what it means to be a woman; even her best friends turn against her. Worst of all, a rumor spreads, accusing Luz of cheating in the competition. Now she's at risk of losing all she's worked so hard to achieve. Will Luz be able to prove her innocence and make her state and her family proud?
Though White Bread Competition is a collection of interlinked stories, it can be read as a novel. Hernandez's prose shines with simplicity and clarity, making this book a quick, enjoyable read. But this doesn't mean it doesn't have any substance. Though the author presents the story in a simple way that appeals to young readers, there are many underlying issues to put readers to think, such as prejudice and what it means to be Latina in a white world. The characters are skillfully crafted and there's a large array of them--some sympathetic, some antagonists--to keep readers intrigued. The stories or chapters are written from the point of view of the various characters. I also loved the Hispanic flavor in this book, making the setting and the characters come to life even more. This is the first book I read by this author, but it won't be the last. I highly recommend White Bread Competition for class discussions but also to anyone who enjoys good writing with a Latina flavor.
The book won Second Prize for Best Collection of Short Stories in 1996 "Chicano/Latino Literary Contest" at the University of California, Irvine.
Jo Ann Hernandez is the award-winning author of White Bread Competition and The Throwaway Piece, published by Arte Publico Press. She also coordinates virtual book tours for Latino authors at BronzeWord Latino Authors.
Mayra Calvani loves writing fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Her book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, won a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award. Author's website