A Memorable Life Journey and Basilio's Incredible Diary

Non-Fiction - Biography
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 07/08/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Maria Victoria Beltran for Readers' Favorite

Abuelita: A Memorable Life Journey and Basilio's Incredible Diary by Abel Menchaca Jr is the biography of Jesúsa Rocha, the author’s abuelita or grandmother. The author meticulously traces her life story starting from her family ancestry, the life-changing events she experienced, her move to a new country, and her last years. The eldest in the family, Abuelita was three years old when the Mexican Revolution disrupted her life. What follows is a remarkable story as she faced countless challenges with her family trying to survive the revolution and subsequent immigration to the United States. Drawing from his great-grandfather’s diary, author Abel Menchaca Jr lovingly pieces together the life of this extraordinary woman. This is her story.

Abel Menchaca Jr’s Abuelita is a moving tribute to his grandmother. Aided by his great-grandfather’s diary along with impressive amounts of research to illustrate his abuelita’s life, the author tries to perpetuate her memory and creates an impressive account of a life that is truly well lived. Experiencing hunger, disease, death of family members, and the struggles of being an immigrant in a new country, Abuelita’s desire to give her family a better life shines forth. One may not find her name in the pages of a history book but there is no doubt that Jesúsa Rocha was a remarkable woman whose love for her family and resilience should be emulated. The pictures are quite helpful in presenting her story and one can’t help but admire the strength with which she faced life’s adversities.

Philip Van Heusen

Abel Menchaca, Jr. shares his grandmother’s story in Abuelita: A Memorable Life. In this interesting book, Abel tells of the hardships his Abuelita (grandmother) experienced in Mexico. Much of this book is based on his great-grandfather’s diary and stories that Abel’s grandmother shared with him. Living in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution came with its dangers and struggles. Abuelita was a living link between the early twentieth century and the end of it. To many today, the stories of Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries seem like ancient history; however, to Abuelita, they were stories of her childhood. For safety and progress, the family ended up moving to Texas. This book will appeal especially to those interested in what life was like in Mexico and Texas in the early 1900s.

People have been moving from Mexico to the United States for a long time, and Abuelita: A Memorable Life by Abel Menchaca, Jr. shares his family’s journey. Through Abel’s writing, one can learn much about the struggles of immigration and poverty. His writing style is direct and conversational. He ends the book with some appendixes and includes some old family photographs. Abel gives one piece of wonderful advice for overcoming paralyzing fear: to step toward it and take action. If you like reading family histories and historical details, this book is for you. Abel makes some speculations to fill in the gaps missing from his great-grandfather’s diary. If you are interested in how the crisis at the Southern border of the US grew, this is a good study of the early days.

Asher Syed

Abel Menchaca, Jr.'s Abuelita: A Memorable Life Journey and Basilio's Incredible Diary digs into his family's history, tracing it back to Spain through Abuelita's oral accounts and documented diaries. The lineage, entrenched in southern Europe, finds hurdles in tracing its roots due to limited historical records. Francisco, Abuelita's grandfather, was a respected miner in Real de Catorce, Mexico, marrying Cesadia after his first wife's passing. Basilio, Menchaca's great-grandfather, documented historical events, maintaining neutrality during the Mexican Revolution to safeguard his family. Augustina, his great-grandmother, raised their family amidst the Revolution's upheavals. The family endured hardships, including losses, migration to the U.S., and Basilio's efforts to protect them amid Mexico's tumultuous times, harnessing an innate resilience amid adversity and Basilio's pursuit of legal immigration for a better life.

Abuelita by Abel Menchaca, Jr. provides a comprehensive, multifaceted understanding of Abuelita's life, the challenges she faced, and the strength she demonstrated through unthinkable circumstances. I found the depictions of very specific moments in history, and how they fueled the decisions of those who were directly impacted by them, to be the most intriguing. The standout to me is a detailed account of Abuelita's decision to leave the farm due to poverty and harsh living conditions. The memoir reads, "Poverty, an unsanitary living and working environment, and no opportunity for improving their standard of existence added to the hopelessness of attaining a change for a better life." The writing style is perhaps more formal and straightforward in connecting the dots of Abuelita's life than casual readers tend to enjoy, but I do think that readers who respect earnest structure and substance will find that here. The greatest boon will be for the descendants of Abuelita, who will undoubtedly treasure this piece of family history for generations to come.