Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Francisco Jiménez
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.
This autobiographical account follows the path of recently graduated Francisco Jiménez, who moves to New York City to obtain a master’s degree and eventually a doctorate at Columbia University. Taking Hold is the fourth book in the set of autobiographies written by the Mexican-American professor and communicates his struggles as he leaves home to further his education. The task seems daunting as he does not have much social or financial capital. However, he perseveres through the hours of research and coursework, eventually writing his thesis and passing tests to get a master’s degree. Along the way, he marries his sweetheart from his undergraduate studies, Laura, and together they start to establish a family as Francisco continues working towards his doctorate. He finally obtains it while working part-time teaching at Columbia. After the confirmation of his doctorate and the birth of their second child, Francisco and Laura accept a job at their alma mater and move back home to California.
The story is written in such a way that the reader feels they are experiencing the struggles of Francisco's life along with him. The true stories help one to understand his struggles as a poor college student, trying to help out the family he left behind. Jiménez's account leads the reader to experience the moments of utter desperation, where work and school seem insurmountable, as well as the joyful celebrations of finishing both degrees and starting a family. His earlier books seem to do a better job showing the injustice and rough times that immigrants face in general, but that is due to the reporting of actual experiences. Jiménez does still manage to discuss his drive to wake America up to the migrant experience and open reader’s eyes. His books will leave the reader feeling more compassionate and driven to help improve the lives of incoming immigrants and refugees. Well-written and genuine, Taking Hold is a story that inspires to persevere through difficulties and take hold of one's own life to improve it.