Viva's Voice written by Raquel Donoso, Illustrated by Carlos Velez Aguilera
A Review by Issac Abernethy
“... many voices together can make a big noise Papi…”
-- Raquel Donoso, Viva's Voice
Viva’s Voice, written by Raquel Donoso and illustrated by Carlos Velez Aguilera, is the story of Viva and her Papi standing up for change and is inspired by the author’s childhood experiences as the daughter of Latinx immigrant parents living in Los Angeles. Viva’s Papi works as a municipal bus driver and often lets Viva ride with him on his route. All is well with Viva while riding the bus, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. One Day, as Viva prepares to join her Papi, he informs Viva he won't be driving the bus. Viva asks why, he explains that bus drivers are on strike. Papi goes on to explain labor unions, and why members of his local have chosen to strike. After Papi’s explanation, Viva asks Papi if she can attend the strike and make “big noise.” Initially hesitant, Papi agrees to bring Viva along.
The U.S. has a storied history of strike actions, from the first labor strike by tailors in 1768 to present day UAW (auto workers) strikes. Viva’s Voice is a perfect representation of what is entailed in labor union membership. The intersection of Papi’s identities as an immigrant, Latinx person, and blue collar worker adds layers of social pressure as Papi is preparing to speak at the picket line. Going on strike could lead to extended time without a paycheck. In the face of uncertainty, Papi finds strength and inspiration from a daughter whose voice has always been the loudest in the room. As Papi and Viva go on stage chanting union slogans, the spirit of organization, labor rights and equity is lovingly captured.
Depicting the rally, award winning illustrator Carlos Velez Aguilera includes people with a diversity of identities amongst striking crowd members, many shown holding signs and chanting in support of Papi. These illustrations highlight class members being united towards a common goal. In light of recent high visibility strike actions, Viva's Voice is essential in carrying the torch of organization and labor rights.
Set in Los Angeles upon the backdrop of farmworker strikes of the 60’s and 70’s, Viva's Voice is relevant contemporarily, while capturing the essence of historic union actions of yesteryear. I would recommend inclusion of this book at all grade levels. The character Viva is a vibrant carefree girl with the strength to inspire and persuade, a wonderful role model for Latinx youth. This story can give younger readers a starting point for learning about unions and can inspire a more complex conversation about labor unions and class conflict for higher grade levels. As a person who has participated in strike actions I found this story to be an honest and inspiring representation of labor union membership. Viva is one voice, but as she says to Papi, “... many voices together can make a big noise Papi…”
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Hello, my name is Issac Abernethy, I am currently an undergraduate student at Portland State University. As a senior, I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social science. I reside in Oregon with my wife, son, and two cats. I work as a mental health aide at a local care provider and have been a labor advocate throughout my career. Additionally, I am a proud member of the AFSCME union.