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“And so at the age of four, I learned someone could cry from a happy memory.”
With the Fire on High is an ownvoices story, following an Afro-Latinx main character named Emoni. Emoni is a young mom, who got pregnant her freshman year of high school, but this book takes place during her senior year, and her school just opened up registration for a culinary class. Emoni has loved cooking and crafting recipes her entire life, but she is apprehensive to sign up for the new class because at the end of the year there is a trip to Spain that she doesn’t think that she can afford.
Emoni lives with her abuela, and even though her daughter’s father is in her daughter’s life, he does not help out with expenses and money is very tight, along with Emoni’s free time. She is always working part time at a burger joint, and for sure doesn’t have time to even think about dating, until a new boy comes to the school, and joins the brand-new culinary class.
Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing is just on another level. Her passages and one-liners leave me breathless and speechless. You can tell that she puts her entire heart and soul into every line she delivers, and it just makes this entire book shines so very brightly.
And the themes, from being a young parent and motherhood and what it means to be both of those things when people judge you for them constantly. To how sometimes family aren’t able to be what you wish they were, whether that means closer in distance and/or support. To being mixed race, and how Emoni’s Puerto Rican half will never erase her Black half, regardless of what ignorant people choose to say.
“The whole of me is whole.”
This is a story about connecting with your culture(s), and loving all of the parts of yourself, through food and through family, and it’s honestly so expertly done and so beautifully executed. Reading this entire story made me crave so many of the recipes that Emoni was making, but it made me crave my family’s food and company so very fiercely. Upon finishing, I actually went to the store, came home, and made Pancit and felt so very happy and so very whole.
Overall, this is just such a beautiful book with such a beautiful message. From feeling the closeness to Emoni, both naturally and her trying her hardest, to seeing the closeness of a community come together, it just made for such a powerful read and really left me feeling every emotion. Elizabeth Acevedo is a gift to the world and I can’t wait to read everything she will ever write.
Content and Trigger Warnings: Abandonment, loss of a loved one in the past, medical anxiety/scares, talk of abortion, underage drinking, and use of the word g*psy that is 100% completely challenged.