Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina: Intersectionality: Race, Culture, and Realities
Piddy Sanchez’s life intersects mostly with her school but also with her work at Salón Corazón, where her mom’s best friend, Lila, works. Piddy’s single mom moves them to a better, namely safer, neighborhood, but it means that Piddy must change schools. Piddy has belatedly experienced puberty and has “only had an ass for about six months, and now it seems it has a mind of its own” (3). This is the reason Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass: she’s “shaking your ass the way you do,” explains Darlene. Piddy is a threat to Yaqui even though Piddy doesn’t know Yaqui’s boyfriend or Yaqui as she pretty much has only Darlene as a friend at school, and Darlene likes to watch as much drama at the school as possible (2). Lila tells Piddy to “Be proud … And keep your shoulders back” when they go bra shopping (3). Lila’s been teaching Piddy to dance merengue and the rhythms may have stuck in Piddy’s head (3).
Despite Piddy’s new-found physical sexuality, Piddy seems clueless to Darlene, as if Piddy is “the stupid one. White-skinned. No accent. Good in school. I’m not her idea of a Latina at all” (6). Yaqui escalates her threats, and Piddy starts missing school (she returns to her old neighborhood friend Joey), and her grades and attendance drop. Eventually, Yaqui does kick Piddy’s ass (161-2), and the video is put on the Internet (171). Piddy, like many teens, feels isolated from her school because she’s new there and because she doesn’t fit the school’s profile of a Latina. We also get the impression that the teachers may not care or may have other concerns as Mr. Fink doesn’t take attendance (1), Ms. O’Donnell was dumped by her husband (2), and “Ms. Shepherd pretends not to make a big deal about my return: though she can see that Piddy was beaten up (230). Piddy feels isolated. Darlene prefers gossip, and their lunch friend, Rob, is socially outcast, though Piddy does talk with him.
At school, Piddy is an outcast, but at Salón Corazón Piddy can be herself. She can comfortably remain in the background watching Lila give out love advice (61) and listening to neighborhood gossip. The women recognize that Piddy “Estás hecha una mujer” and don’t seem happy about it as they then talk about Clara, Piddy’s mom (63).
Joey seems to fit the stereotype of the Latino who is never in school, but we learn the reasons why and how tough guys are not always that tough (think kittens). Darlene fits the stereotype of the school gossip, and Piddy is an anti-stereotype, not fitting in with the Latinas at her school while learning to deal with her body’s changes. Rob seems to be the socially awkward sidekick, thrown in for comic relief, but when Piddy, joining Rob who is in a group of his own, jokingly says, “I guess it’s lonely at the top,” Rob says, “I’m not lonely” and means it (231). Eventually, the school realizes that Piddy is being bullied, and she tells the administrators about the beating and the Internet video, but she realizes she now must live her “new life as a narc” (241).
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass has a pleasant ending, and people are not as they initially seem. Lila is no flirt, Clara is not devoid of fun, Joey is not a Latino gang-banger, and Piddy is not a sex object intent on stealing other girls’ boyfriends. The key to the hopeful ending is that a single bystander reports the bullying and the school administrators act on that report. In addition, Rob provides additional encouragement for Piddy to leave the school for a more rigorous one. The use of Spanish within the text aids the reader in understanding Piddy’s culture as a Latina, as a good student, and as the daughter of a single mother.
While I was shocked at the title’s use of ass, that is precisely why I chose the text, and I imagine teenagers will choose the book because of the title, too. I didn't know if I was getting myself into a book that dealt with things I would be uncomfortable with, such as curse words and tales of sexual escapades. The story itself is uncomfortable, not the title. As an educator, I wonder how many students I have overlooked who may have been experiencing bullying. I know that in my own classroom I do not allow potentially harmful language or stereotypes to pass unnoticed, but that may not be enough if I don’t view students beyond their stereotypes. Florida has many Hispanics, and their cultures are not all the same; however, they often suffer from the stereotypes that they are only good for working in the fields or are part of a gang. I’ve been fortunate in knowing Hispanic students who made good grades, helped their families, and served in our military. My students felt comfortable enough telling me about why they worked in the fields each day after school (imagine watermelon picking). I’ve been lucky enough to attend two very different quinceaneras, but the thought that I may have missed bullying (of anyone, not just Hispanics, especially since I was bullied by three coworkers) cuts hard. All it takes is one teacher who advocates for her students; all it takes is one bystander to report bullying. Have I been that person?
Medina, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Candlewick Press, 2013.