Paperback (also available as an e-book), 978-1-7333-7982-3, 250 pgs., $9.99
December 10, 2019
A label should never define us; a disability should never prohibit us from attaining our dreams. Diego Herrera was born in Sacramento, California, to undocumented parents from Mexico. Soon after birth, Diego was diagnosed with deaf-mutism. Despite the difficulty of having a disabled child in a country that is unrelenting in its pursuit to deport illegal immigrants, Diego’s mom refuses to deny her son any opportunity to live as normally as possible, including receiving medical care and attending public school, rather than a special-needs school.
The word “valiance” means courage, and to survive in a world filled with people who have little tolerance for others with disabilities, Diego must work twice as hard to prove himself at home, in school, and on the soccer field. From an early age, Diego’s biggest dream has always been to play soccer, but in high school, the coach continues to deny him the chance to make the team because of Diego’s inability to communicate verbally with the rest of the players during games. Diego, however, never stops trying.
Valiance by Vanessa Caraveo is an inspiring coming-of-age novel about a young boy who must communicate through sign language, writing, and by reading lips. Bullying plays a pivotal role throughout Valiance, but it goes beyond the typical schoolyard antagonism against anyone who stands out as weak or simply different. Diego knows he will continue to face adversity and struggle with acceptance, even in his own home. While Diego’s mother will do anything for her Dieguito, his older sister, Margarita, is jealous and resents his extra attention, and Diego’s father never seems to be able to accept that his oldest son is less than perfect. While discrimination will always be a part of Diego’s life, his best friend, Fernando, eases the loneliness and the sting of being gawked at and bullied.
Vanessa Caraveo’s writing is straightforward and fluid, and Valiance’s seemingly true-to-life narrative is plausible and encouraging. Through the story of Diego’s simple quest to be accepted, his determination to go to college, and eventually play professional soccer, Caraveo adroitly shows that everyone deserves a chance to prove himself or herself in all aspects of life, no matter the physical, mental, or socioeconomic circumstances. Valiance is a heartfelt portrayal of how a disability can either hold you back or push you beyond your limitations to accomplish your dreams.
Diego constantly has to study and practice harder than his peers to gain even a chance at a foothold, but by doing so, he attains his goals and eventually inspires others with disabilities to stand taller and dream bigger. While Valiance is about Diego’s unfailing courage in the face of suffering and hardship, it is also about the power of family, friends, and teachers who make a difference and never stop believing that he can and will succeed in whatever he sets out to do.
Valiance is perfect for the discerning reader who loves to be inspired by a protagonist with a heart of gold and a disability that does not knock him down or keep him from living, dreaming, and achieving.
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