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Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez

Growing up can be one of the hardest things a fourteen year old boy has to do, and Victor Martinez illustrates that theme in Parrot in the Oven perfectly. Manny is a “young man” living at home with his parents and siblings in Fresno, California. The family is nowhere near wealthy due to Manny’s father and older the brother both not having jobs. In fact, the only one bringing money into the household is Manny’s older sister, Magna. While problems ensue at home due to the poverty and increasing violence between his parents, Manny can’t fit in anywhere and struggles to make friends. He feels the only place he could fit in would be a gang. This ends up seeming like a big mistake when Manny witnesses a gang member stealing an old woman’s purse and he realizes that being a gang member would be destructive. In the end, Manny sees that he does not need a gang to help him fit in. All he needs to do is grow up on his own and find his own identity.

The main thesis of the book is that coming of age takes many experiences and issues to help an adolescent learn and grow. In the novel, Victor Martinez provides many experiences in which Many has to be a part of to finally become a man of respect. These conflicts include the cultural discrimination against Hispanics in the community, Manny’s dysfunctional and poor family, and ,the main obstacle, finding his identity. The evidence the author uses is solid, relatable, and provides for an easy understanding of why Manny’s life is very difficult.

The thesis is very convincing because of the emotional strain the young man in the story has. The reader can feel the emotion of Manny and how hard it is to want to grow up but first have to go through many tough times. Using a profusion of detail, the author vividly describes how Manny feels to further convince the reader that in order to grow up, one needs hardships and obstacles to overcome. “Thoughts came like damp, echoing coughs, and the air felt empty. I sort of began to feel like no gravity was holding me up, and I was spiraling down a long, black tunnel.” (109).

Although this book is fiction, with details relating to the author’s life, it might also be a very helpful guide for some adolescents. I found it to be very helpful in giving me another perspective on how bad things could be. I would recommend it to anyone looking to experience hidden aspects of teenage life that average people do not have to deal with. It is a truly touching story of a coming-of-age young man trying to find his identity, and his story would be helpful for anyone trying to do the same.




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