My Own True Name
By Pat Mora
image retrieved 2/10/13 from
Mora, Pat. My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults, 1984-1999. Houston, Tex: Pinata Books, 2000.
Lyrical and intensely personal, the poems of My Own True Name are a delight to the senses and the soul. Pat Mora has assembled a collection of some of her previous works, blended with some new writings, all with rich cultural references to her heritage and bilingual roots. Though multicultural in presentation, the poetry has a personal feel that any reader of any background can identify with… family relationships, hopes and dreams, emotions and authentic connections flow comfortably through the pages.
Ms. Mora begins with an open letter to readers, “Dear Fellow Writers.” She reveals the magic, motivation, and rewards of writing in a conspiratorial manner. Who could resist a master of words skillfully posing an invitation that everyone will want to accept? Her encouragement to “join the serious and sassy family of writers” is just the hook for a fledgling writer to grab.
Sensory imagery is particularly strong in the collection, which connects powerfully with underlying meanings and figurative language for solid emotional impact, as seen in “In the Blood”:
The brown-eyed child
And the white-haired grandfather
Dance in the silent afternoon.
They snap their fingers
To a rhythm only those
Who love can hear.
The arrangement of the poetry into sections entitled “Blooms,” “Thorns,” and “Roots” utilizes sensory imagery to focus the reader’s attention and preview the themes to come. Poems are organized in a table of contents at the beginning of the book. Stylistically the poems differ in length, format, and the occasional inclusion of bilingual phrases, but the gentle rhythm of the poems weaves an interconnected quality that points back to the section title. The only illustrations are pencil drawings that begin each section, created by Anthony Accardo. This style blends perfectly with the unassuming presentation of poems that have personal voice, universal appeal.
The poems in My Own True Name are varied in subject, but consistent in quality. Whether encapsulating a familial relationship, such as in “Mothers and Daughters,” commemorating a cultural icon, such as “The Young Sor Juana,” or sharing pain, like that of segregation in “Fences,” Ms. Mora employs just the right technique and language to capture the reader’s heart and imagination. True to her heritage, Ms. Mora includes a strong dose of bilingualism. Some poems have Spanish lines included, with translations at the bottom of the page, such as “Los ancianos.” Other poems appear completely in Spanish on the facing page, like “En la sangre/In the Blood.”
My Own True Name is a charming blend of tradition, heart, and poetic imagery. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will find a jewel within the pages. It is a worthy addition to any library collection.
Gillian Engberg (Booklist, March 15, 2000 (Vol. 96, No. 14))
Interlaced with Mexican phrases and cultural symbols, these powerful selections, representing more than 15 years of work, address bicultural life and the meaning of family. The rich, symbolic imagery, raw emotion, and honesty will appeal to mature teens.
Delia A. Culberson (VOYA, December 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 5))
A symbol of survival and a metaphor for life itself, the hardy cactus plant serves as the inspirational touchstone in this acclaimed Mexican American writer's latest anthology of poems. In an introduction addressed "Dear Fellow Writer," the author reaches out to her young adult readers with affection and encouragement, urging them to "play with sounds." She advises them to listen to their inside selves, their private voices, and to be storytellers. Mora shares suggestions and ideas, and invites them to "Come join the serious and sassy family of writers".
Best Book Lists
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Poetry Picks, 2000 ; Voice of Youth Advocates; United States
Senior High Core Collection, Seventeenth Edition, 2007 ; The H. W. Wilson Co.; United States
Senior High School Library Catalog, Sixteenth Edition, 2002 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Senior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Fifteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
The Desert is My Mother
I say fee me.
She serves red prickly pear on a spiked cactus.
I say tease me.
She sprinkles raindrops in my face on a sunny day.
I say frighten me.
She shouts thunder, flashes lightning.
I say hold me.
She whispers, “Lie in my arms.”
I say heal me.
She gives me chamomile, oregano, peppermint.
I say caress me.
She strokes my skin with her warm breath.
I say make me beautiful.
She offers turquoise for my fingers, a pink blossom for my hair.
I say sing to me.
She chants her windy songs.
I say teach me.
She blooms in the sun’s glare, the snow’s silence, the driest sand.
The desert is my mother.
El desierto es mi madre.
The desert is my strong mother.
Note: “The Desert is My Mother” also appears in Spanish on the facing page.
This poem would be a wonderful piece in several different teaching units. It has a strong connection to units on families, habitats, metaphors & descriptive phrases bringing life to writing, and bilingual instruction. Here is a Poetry Break connecting this poem to an instructional unit on habitats, with cross-curricular tie-ins to descriptive writing:
· Introductory activity- The teacher will ask students to close their eyes and visualize a desert setting. Students will share what is in their mind’s eye. While their eyes are still closed, the teacher will share “The Desert is My Mother,” using expressive reading to paint a picture with the words. Students will share lines or phrases that stood out to them as they listened.
· Follow up- students will whole group brainstorm characteristics of a desert. Following a discussion of how these items are a part of the desert habitat, students will again listen to a reading of “The Desert is My Mother” by the teacher or a student volunteer.
· Students will view a copy of the poem displayed via document camera. The class will examine the lines of the poem, identifying the elements of the desert and the descriptive language that brings each particular element of the desert to life.
· Students will be asked to share how the metaphors and descriptive phrases help them to “see” the desert in a different light. Ask students for other examples of descriptive imagery that could apply to a desert.
· Students will share their reactions to the desert being described as a mother. How does a habitat take the role of a parent? Students will verbalize the inferences they have made.
· This poem makes a nice choral reading. The class can read it together, with the class reading the first line of each couplet and an individual reading the second line, or the poem can be read with partners alternating lines.
· Extension activity- students will use this concept of a habitat taking the role of a mother, and write an original poem set in a different habitat.
Other Books by Pat Mora:
Pat Mora’s website: http://www.patmora.com/
Adult Books Poetry
Adobe Odes 69
Agua Santa/Holy Water
Aunt Carmen's Book of Practical Saints
House of Houses
Young Adult Books Poetry
Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love (2010)
My Own True Name: New and Selected Poems for Young Adults (2000)
Children’s Books Rhymes and Poetry
This Big Sky
Book Fiesta! Celebrate Children's Day, Book Day/Celebremos el Día de los niños, el Día de los libros (bilingual)
Confetti: Poems for Children
Confeti: Poemas para niños (Spanish edition)
Delicious Hullabaloo: Pachanga deliciosa (bilingual)
The Desert Is My Mother/El desierto es mi madre(bilingual)
Join Hands: The Way We Celebrate
Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers
¡Marimba! Animales A-Z
The Song of St. Francis and the Animals
Uno, dos, tres: One, Two, Three
Yum! ¡Mmm! ¡Qué Rico! America's Sproutings
Yum! ¡Mmm! ¡Qué Rico! Brotes de las Américas(Spanish edition)
Abuelos (Spanish edition)
Agua Agua Agua
Agua Agua Agua (Spanish edition)
The Bakery Lady/La señora de la panaderia (bilingual)
A Birthday Basket for Tía
Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman With a Great Big Heart
Doña Flor: Un Cuento de una Mujer Gigante con un Grande Corazón (Spanish edition)
The Gift of the Poinsettia: El regalo de la flor de nochebuena (bilingual)
A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés
Una Biblioteca para Juana: El Mundo de Sor Juana Inés (Spanish edition)
Listen to the Desert: Oye al desierto
Maria Paints the Hills
My Family/Mi Familia series: Here Kitty, Kitty/¡Ven gatita, ven! (bilingual)
My Family/Mi Familia series: Let's Eat ¡A comer! (bilingual)
My Family/Mi Familia series: Sweet Dreams ¡Dulces sueños! (bilingual)
My Family/Mi Familia series: Wiggling Pockets/Los bolsillos saltarines (bilingual)
The Night the Moon Fell
La noche que se cayó la luna (Spanish edition)
A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas
The Race of Toad and Deer
La carrera del sapo y el venado (Spanish edition)
The Rainbow Tulip
Tomás and the Library Lady
Tomás y la señora de la biblioteca (Spanish edition)