Mexican Whiteboy Summary

Matt de la Pena

Mexican Whiteboy

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Mexican Whiteboy Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena.

Sixteen-year-old Danny Lopez is a biracial adolescent struggling with finding and accepting his identity in present day National City, Mexico not far from the Mexican border. There he is staying with his father’s side of his family. Danny and his parents are from a well-to-do area of northern San Diego. He has a white mother and a Latino father. Danny is lanky but can throw a ninety-five-mile-per-hour fastball. Trying to develop an understanding of self, developing friendships, and the role of sports, in this case baseball, in life emerge as the major themes in Matt de la Pena’s 2008 novel Mexican Whiteboy.

Danny’s father has left him and his mother and returned to Mexico. Danny does not know why but suspects it may be that he was unable to deal with having a biracial son. He would like to find his father and has the hope of learning more about him, and of his own family history, while visiting with that side of his family in Mexico. Danny is facing a large conflict, both internal and external, wondering if he fits in with white America or with the Mexican side of his identity. Danny has grown accustomed to being prejudged by people. At the mostly white school he attends at home, expectations of him are low, and he has an underlying feeling that his heritage keeps him from fitting in.

When he arrives in Mexico, he immediately feels as if he does not fit in there any more than he did back home by virtue of not being able to speak Spanish. When, through his cousins, he meets other people in the neighborhood, there is a quick confrontation with a boy named Uno that ironically develops into a friendship. The boys find, as the summer progresses, that they have things in common. They spend time together and look for ways to earn money. Danny learns about trust in friendships in a scene that is similar to the common “trust fall” activity that is often practiced as a relationship building exercise in groups. In this case, Uno tells Danny to hold on tightly to a pillar at the bottom of a railway overpass. He promises him that he will be fine if he holds on, which he does as a train passes overhead and shakes them violently.

The main thing the two boys have in common is a love of baseball that cuts across cultural differences. Danny has enough talent as a pitcher to give him the potential to be sought after by college recruiters. However, he is unable to harness this ability and consistently loses concentration when on the pitcher’s mound. Ultimately, he will be able to control his pitching, metaphorically reflecting his “finding” himself. The boys also share the experience of coming from broken homes. Danny’s father left, Uno’s parents are divorced, and he is grappling with deciding which one he should live with.

In time, Danny’s mother calls him from San Francisco where she and her boyfriend had moved at the start of the summer, and while the call is pleasant enough at the start, she begins to cry and tells him she will be coming to get him in a few days so they can be a family again. This encourages Danny and Uno to have one final baseball game together. That night, Uno talks with Sofia, a cousin with whom Danny has been staying. They wonder about what their lives would have been like had they been in Danny’s situation. She tells him a story about a girl who was left to slowly climb the ladder of a slide without any help from her parents, and who smiled and clapped when she reached the top, symbolizing independence and perseverance. The boys later have a baseball game that ends with a fight after they lose, and they return to Sofia’s house. Their talk there leads to wondering what the future will be like, and at the end of the story, Danny feels optimistic about where he is in life.

There are unique aspects to Mexican Whiteboy that make it both an attractive literary work for exposing young readers to significant themes, and that also serve to make it a taboo text in many circles. Much of the language in the book is what is referred to as Spanglish, a combination of Spanish and English that is considered slang and nonstandard. Harsh language is included in both languages and there are numerous references to drug use, sexuality, racism, and violence, all of which are themes that often land texts on the lists of commonly banned books. On the other hand, seeing those very ideas presented through the voices of fictional young men who reflect people who experience those tensions and trials in the real world is exactly what gives literature its power.