The Road to Delano

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Feb 2020

Member Reviews

The Road to Delano is a moving and powerful novel of struggle that is more relevant now more than ever. Despite taking place in the mid-20th century, when it comes to the voices of the oppressed against their oppressors, sadly not much has changed. It was staggering reading this novel because we like to think we have progressed as a society, but the truth of the matter is we haven't come that far. 

As the descendant of farmworkers in Northern California, this story hit home for me. In addition to being a farmer in the prune orchards of Santa Clara County, my grandfather was a minister who catered to the Mexican migrant farmworkers that came into the Valley every season. My father and his siblings worked the orchards after school and through the summers, back breaking work in horrible conditions. As Mexicans, they faced so much discrimination. My father often tells a story of the first time he had a decent paycheck as an adult and how he wanted to use some of it to treat his father to a fancy meal. Except when they got to the restaurant, there was a big sign that said, "No Dogs Or Mexicans."

My mother came from a family that never had to work the fields, but she was always very active with the UFW. Cesar Chavez was a revered name in my household. Growing up I was very familiar with the UFW headquarters near Monterey and can recall several marches and protests I attended with her. We often went out to the camps, witnessing firsthand the deplorable conditions these exploited workers lived in. In an area of California with so much wealth, it was staggering to see that just out of sight were people living in what was essentially a third world country. This was in the early 2000s, at the heigh of the tech boom, so don't go thinking this was all that long ago.

Obviously this book struck a strong personal chord for me, but it is a book I will be recommending to everyone. It would especially be a fantastic addition to any high school curriculum. Social justice and the greed of corporate agriculture  are at the heart of this novel, issues that are still relevant today. The characters were very relatable and often tugged at my heartstrings as we followed them through such difficult situations. Poor Jack had so much on his shoulders before realizing what was going on to not only his best friend Adrian and his family, but to people pretty much in his backyard. 

Jack's girlfriend Ella reminded me so much of my mother who was actually a high school senior about the same time as the characters in this book. She was (and still is) a wildcat fighting for what she believes in and also used to runaway to Berkeley for the big protests. 

John DeSimone has written a truly captivating book that should be required reading for everyone. I'm so glad to have been given a chance to read The Road to Delano. It will be a book that will stay with me for many years to come. 

Full review to come on my blog.
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Jack Duncan is a high school senior, in 1968, whose dream "is to play baseball in college and beyond―as far away from Delano as possible. The turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers in his small ag town create a division for his loyalty between his best friend, Adrian, the son of a UFW organizer. Both grapple with decisions that affect their lives.

"With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge." 

I enjoyed this historical fiction with the farmworker struggle set as a backdrop. The issues of social justice, corporate agriculture, the fight for water rights, and equality are all in this novel. Besides Jack's best friend,  there is a bit about Ella, his girlfriend, and her struggle with justice and equality issues. The writing is very good, descriptive. The suspense was compelling for a 'coming-of-age' story. 

One thing that did bother me was the use of racial slurs, which realistically were used, but there's little to no interior monologue from Jack as to what he feels when this occurs: "At school, kids always wanted to know why Jack was best friends with a Beaner, a Mexican, a wetback. They both wanted to play the game as long as they could...Adrian pushed him harder with a dare. Jack often returned the favor. That's what brothers did best." A description of Cesar Chavez: "A short man, Indian brown..." 

There is much history to discuss in this book and it would be useful for high school students. The author is balanced and knowledgable of Cesar Chavez's role, the UFW strike, and the social justice issues surrounding this time frame. Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this novel.
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Jack Duncan just wants to finish high school and play college baseball. With this family's farm up for taxes it falls on him to help his mother and save their property. When an old friend of his fathers gives him papers surrounding the death of his father it send Jack's life into even more turmoil. Everything his mother told him wasn't the truth. In fact his fathered was murdered. This story takes you into the Duncan's past but also gives an eye opening look at the lives of farmers, Teamsters and dirty deeds. The story held me from the first page. Had me rooting for Jack and his friend Adrian. A compelling read. I really enjoyed it.

Novels N Latte 
Hudson Valley NY
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This novel was as slow paced as life seems to be in rural communities. The history interwoven through the text was compelling, especially to a girl who grew up in the Central Valley of California. My only qualm with the book was that the writing didn't keep pace with the story; by that, I mean that the story is one that deserves some drama, and this book is almost monotone.
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The Road to Delano by John DeSimone

If you were ever curious as to why worker unions are started, this story will explain it to you. Taking place in the 1960s amid the grape pickers’ strike in California, Jack Duncan, a high school student, and his best friend, Adrian Sanchez, get caught up in the struggle between the growers and the pickers in the grape boycott, which affects everyone in Delano. 

This book leans to being a YA read, as we follow Jack and Adrian through their day to day activities with girlfriends, lunches, dates, detentions and their baseball games and practices. Jack is trying to save his mother’s farm and Adrian is secretly helping his dad as a picket captain. 

The real Cesar Chavez, an American born Latino civil rights activist, and eventual United Farm Workers (UFW) leader, plays a huge role in this boycott, though a minimal role in the story. Having seen enough humiliation and abuse of the poor and uneducated farm workers, he leads the way to force farm owners (the growers) to improve the lives of the workers (the pickers).  

There are other parts of the story and other characters which are not a necessary part of this review. The reader will see how it all plays out as Jack and Adrian become the problem solving men they never counted on being at such a young age. 

Thank you to #Red Bird Books and # Net Galley for an ARC to review.
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Initially intrigued by the premise, I eventually gave up on the uneven tempo of plot and character.  I'll keep an eye on this author as I feel this doesn't reflect the entirety of his potential since his plot choices are sound.
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An excellent look at life in the Central Valley. Using fictional characters in a believable plot, the author teaches the reader much about the activities and relationships of those who live and work in this area.
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This is a novel set in California during the grape harvesters strike, gives an interesting perspective on the striker’s lives and hardships. The history’s insights are true to the times. It a story about Jack a high schooler whose family has lost all their land to an unscrupulous landowner and his efforts to right wrongs he experiences. He and his friend Adrian are obsessed with baseball and hope to use their gifts to get scholarships to college. His girlfriend Ella plans on going to college with them. All three witness the deprivation the workers go through and end up changing their lives. Ella joins an organization that focuses on the living conditions of the workers while Adrian joins his father who works for Cesar Chavez. In the meantime Jack learns how to play poker (like his father) and takes on the landowner who cheated his mother of her land.
The story flows seamlessly from Sugar ( Jack’s father) to the big poker game. Thanks to Rare Birds and netgalley for the opportunity to review this novel.
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