Book Review: Robert Renteria’s Graphic Novel MI BARRIO

A Graphic Novel

Please Note: The author will answer any questions you leave in  the comment section on 6/30/11 only. Those who comment will automatically be entered to win a free copy of this book.

There were definitely tough times in my upbringing, as most of you already know, mainly because of what we didn’t have, not really because of violence or drugs, although some of those factors did play a role.  The truth is we never had to walk the streets where people where getting high in front of us or pulling guns out to kill each other in the middle of our barrio.  We were immigrants – the wetbacks that everybody talked about – and our main concern was how we were going to survive from one moment to the next.  Sure as things got easier temptation to “experiment” became stronger, there were gangs and gangsters, even a lot of wannabes, but it was never as severe as what author Robert Renteria depicts in his latest book Mi Barrio.

The graphic novel, based on Renteria’s self memoir From the Barrio to the Board Room, which to me was very entertaining because of its similarity to the comic book genre, was produced by Smarter Comics no less, and takes us through the author’s often difficult life from childhood to adulthood in basically one read.  The story is condensed and moves rapidly through accompanying illustrations by Shane Clester (some of the images are just very moving).

Meant for a younger audience, the book is at times a little “graphic” literally, but it does present what Renteria considers some of the most impactful moments in his life.  There is the abandonment by a drug and alcohol addicted father, the carnival accident he was involved in at six years old, the rehab and operations afterwards, doing and dealing drugs as a teenager, dropping out of school, getting shot and stabbed, learning his estranged father had died on skid-row, and then how he turned his life around and ended up in “the Board Room.”  It’s a very compelling story to be quite honest, especially for a reader like me who loves the rags to riches variety of published writings.

Author Robert Renteria

Still, while my idea had been to read the story with my eight year old, since it was sort of like a comic book layout anyway, I’m very glad I decided to read the book first myself because in all honesty I don’t think it’s something we’d want him reading right now… maybe in a couple of years.  I would, however, recommend the book for older kids, especially those that might be considered “at risk.”  Not because it’s a reflection of their reality, although it might be, but because it’s a powerful story that doesn’t sugar coat the truth or dance around the reality of what could happen to you when you decide to go down the wrong path.  And, of course, because the author himself is Latino and a reflection of what it is to be a part of our cultura and herencia.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher as part of a Condor Book Tour.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Robert Renteria’s Graphic Novel MI BARRIO

  1. Wow. This book sounds compelling and a little depressing. Sounds like he had a lot of obstacles to overcome. I’d love to read his story.

  2. Juan, thank you for writing this review. There’s been a lot of discussion and criticism lately about YA going too dark. I don’t think so. Particularly when the subject-matter is true to life and representative of what other youths are experiencing. Drugs, rape, shootings happen daily in neighborhoods that many with delicate sensibilities would prefer to believe don’t exist. I don’t think talking about these topics glorifies them, I think it raises awareness.

    1. Ezzy,
      Couldn’t agree with you more. For kids above a certain age there’s nothing wrong with spelling things out to them. Como decimos nosotros el sol no se tapa con un dedo.

  3. Juan, estoy de acuerdo. As parents, we bear the responsibility of determining what’s age-appropriate for our children. I’m glad you read it first. Now you’ll be prepared to answer your son’s preguntas when his time comes to read it. You just taught me another dicho, btw. Gracias! ; D

  4. I’d like to thank Robert for coming out to my son’s summer progrm thrugh CPS to speak to the kids… He was so moved and inspired by your words(which coinencentally are the same words he has grown up hearing”Have corazon, believe in yourself, you can do anything you put your mind to doing)… YOu made quite and impact on him!

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