The Moon Within
Essayist, short-story writer and first-time children's novelist Aida Salazar's The Moon Within is a contemporary tale told in first-person verse about a girl reaching deep within herself for understanding.
Eleven-year-old Celi is a good student, a dancer and a drummer. Her Xicana (a girl or woman "in the US with Mexican indigenous origins") mother, Mima, is an herbalist; her black Puerto Rican father a drummer and music teacher. She and her fellow Oakland, Calif., tweens are beginning to learn about their new feelings, changing bodies and expressions of sexuality and gender. Her best friend, Magda, for example, now requests that others use the pronouns he/him and call him Marco or Mar. His eloquent father explains this new identity by calling Mar xochihuah, a person "who danced between or to other energies than what they were assigned at birth." Celi struggles with her identity as a young woman, scared of the moon ceremony her mother, searching for tradition, wants to hold to celebrate her first period. She also yearns to enjoy her first girl-boy relationship with Iván, who, like her, is "Black-xican--Black and Mexican mixed"--but he and other kids make fun of her genderfluid friend. Celi "like" likes Iván, but wants to be loyal to Mar.
Salazar's language is frank and rich, using occasional Spanish or Mexica/Nahuatl words, to express each tween's individual thoughts and emotions during the wholly common experience of puberty. As Salazar explains in her author's note, The Moon Within is also working to resurrect from the Mexica past the traditional connection between women and the natural world. Readers are sure to respond to Celi (and Salazar), as they think about their own bodies, feelings and relationships. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer