These Books Made Me

American Girl - Josefina

October 21, 2021 Prince George's County Memorial Library System Season 1 Episode 10
These Books Made Me
American Girl - Josefina
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode marks our final foray into the American Girliverse and our season 1 finale. We delve into the world of Josefina Montoya,  our most introverted girl to date, but possibly the most resourceful. There is a piano disaster (and subsequent miraculous piano healing), a rattlesnake attack (and subsequent semi-miraculous healing), a deceased parent, a deceased goat, and a kind of squicky wedding. We discuss the great blanket gambit of 1824 and decide we may need to rebrand as a Tia Dolores stan account. Josefina introduces us to Florecita, truly the GOAT goat, whose passing we mourn to this day. We reminisce about our own families and traditions as we examine some of the Mexican roots of this series, from language to food to enigmatic musical fathers. We are also joined by a very special expert, Professor Tey Diana Rebolledo, who served on the AG advisory committee and has fascinating insights into the creation and legacy of Josefina.

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped us and is a product of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System podcast network. Stay in touch with us via Twitter @PGCMLS with #TheseBooksMadeMe or by email at TheseBooksMadeMe@pgcmls.info. For recommended readalikes and deep dives into topics related to each episode, visit our blog at https://pgcmls.medium.com/.                                       
                                       
We mentioned a lot of topics and articles in this episode. Here’s a brief list of some of them if you want to do your own further research:
Curanderismo: https://www.calhealthreport.org/2013/05/15/curanderismo-is-alive-and-well-in-america/
History of fiber arts and textiles in New Mexico: https://www.newmexico.org/blog/post/the-colorful-history-of-fiber-arts-in-new-mexico/
Rio Grande blankets and weaving history:
http://www.chimayoweavers.com/HIST.html
https://jamescomptongallery.com/rio-grande-blankets/
Yucca, not yuca (don't eat this kind): https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=YUEL

Hannah:

Hi, I'm Hannah.

Hawa:

I'm Hawa

Heather:

And this is our podcast These Books Made Me. Today. We're going to be continuing our American Girl series of episodes with Josefina and her original six books. Friendly warning as always. This podcast contains spoilers. If you don't yet know who the biggest, oldest, meanest goat was, proceed with caution. We have a special guest joining us today.

Ella:

Hi everyone. I'm Ella. And this is my episode, the part of the podcast where I join the main discussion. So was this everyone's first time reading, and if not, how'd this reread compare to your memories of reading it when you were younger?

Heather:

So, I was really confused about when I first read some of these books, because I thought I had only read a couple of them, but then I feel like I remembered things from later books. So now I think I might've read the whole like box set, but I'm not sure if I read all six or not, but I feel like after reading them again, I might have.

Hawa:

So, as I've previously mentioned before, I have never read any of the American Girl doll books before doing this podcast. So this was my first time reading these books also, but it was fun. They were definitely different than the other books in the series,

Hannah:

Same, Hawa. Uh , I think for all of our American Girl episodes , um, I have read all the books before, read them as a kid. I read the Josefina books for the first time last week. And it was kind of exciting to get to, you know, read them as an adult with no previous memories.

Ella:

So Josefina is actually the only American Girl doll that I read as a child. Um, and I got her box set for Christmas one year. And the only reason I remember that is because I read the Christmas Story first and then was really confused about all the people. And then I went back and read the Meet Josefina book and was like, oh, this makes much more sense.

Hawa:

That's super cute. I feel like people don't. I feel like as kids, you don't really realize the importance of reading books as a series. If you're just like super excited to get into something,

Heather:

And these are not numbered, it's not like they say, Josefina one. Josefina two. I think that that was a very understandable mistake to make.

Hawa:

All right, let's dive into the books. So the first book of the series is Meet Josefina. Josefina, her three sisters and Papa are all coming to terms with Mama's death and getting used to life on the rancho without her. Abuelito and the caravan return from their long trip to Mexico City. And everyone is shocked to see that Tia Dolores has returned with them. Josefina has troubles with goats and the whole village celebrates the arrival of the caravan. Tia Dolores makes quite an impression and the girls and Papa asked her to stay and live with them. So this was, I think this was quite an interesting first meet the Meet Josefina. It kind of felt more of like a Meet Tia Dolores book. I like that they brought her into the family and she was excited to be around them. Cause at first, like they were like talking about her the beginning and they were just like, yeah, well, one of the sisters was like, yeah, well maybe I'll go live with her in Mexico City. And then one of the other sisters was like, she hasn't been around almost 10 years. What makes you think she would want to live with you? So I was kind of nervous when she came off the caravan. I was like, is she going to be mean?

Ella:

How did you feel about the fact that she already knew a lot about the girls though? Like, I felt like that was very caring, but on the other side, like kind of a little weird, like if I just met someone for the first time in my life, I wouldn't be expecting them to know me really well.

Heather:

Yeah, it showed that she was invested in them even from afar and that there was like, clearly this love for them in a familial way. But I also was wondering about the realism of that because getting mail to Mexico City at that time feels like that would have been extremely sporadic. Like she was basically saying, I got letters when your mom would send them with Abuelito on the caravan. That would have been like once a year. It was like, how do you know this much from like one letter a year?

Hawa:

I think she made it seem less, creepy cause she came with gifts. She's like, I know all these things about you and all of these things I know about you'll help me get you these great gifts, which I, even though I didn't know I was coming until like a day before I was - had readily accessible for you.

Heather:

I did want to point out that I was absolutely thrilled to see that they did the Friends and Family section correctly at the front of this book.

Hawa:

Yeah.

Heather:

It just said Family. And it was all family, which was great. They went off the rails again in later books, but the first one, they got it right with the labeling for the , um , portraiture at the beginning of the story.

Ella:

I'm so used to seeing them, the other way that I automatically in my head was like, these are their friends and then realized there wasn't anything on the top of the page.

Heather:

Right.

Ella:

Like, Thank goodness.

Heather:

I don't know if this registered with anyone else, but did anybody feel like the four sisters were sort of similar to the four sisters in Little Women? Like I felt like they each kind of filled one of those roles. Like Francisca's clearly Amy, you know, she's into the pretty things and she's not a very hard worker. She..

Hawa:

she's cares

Heather:

about her appearance and dancing and all of this Clara would be Jo, like she's practical and she's kind of hard - headed and stubborn. Ana is Meg, you know, she's already got her boys and she's the motherly type. And then Josefina is Beth. So it's like Little Women, but we're seeing it from Beth's eyes. Well, and Josefina doesn't die, which thank goodness. But.

Hawa:

Spoiler no I'm kidding [laughing]

Heather:

Yeah [Laughter] …Little Women.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Hawa:

I have not read Little Women, so...

Ella:

I hadn't, because I read it as a child. I was rereading it again through an adult, reading it as a child, I guess. But when you said that I automatically was like, yes. So I also agree. I think, especially since they have such distinct strong personalities

Heather:

Yeah, they each fill a different role, right? Like you have maternal Ana, you have quiet, shy Josefina, who's, you know, gentle and maybe too gentle at times. And she kind of finds her voice in the series and then Clara is practical and has no time for the pretty dresses and all of the frou-frou stuff that Francisca's like obsessed with. I liked this book, you know, as far as I know, I've been kind of mean about Valerie Tripp with some of the other series. And I will be mean later about Valerie Tripp in this series. But I thought for an introductory book about the character, you did end it having a good sense of the actual characters. It wasn't so much a plot heavy, like all of these things are happening. Not a whole lot happens. I mean, Tia Dolores comes, that's the main thing. So everything else around it is more just like learning who these people are and learning what their world looks like. And I thought that was pretty effective in this one.

Ella:

Well, I think too, because there's so much time spent on introducing the characters in such a complete way that later in the series, when they experience growth, like it was very clear to see how they'd all changed, which I think made it more meaningful later on.

Heather:

Agree

Hawa:

I think that's absolutely a good point. And I think very early on you realize like how important like family is to them. Even when the sisters are having their little fights, like, you know Josefina is just that one little, the one peacemaker, that's just trying to bring everything together. And she's like, all I want is for my family to be like how it was before. And I'm just like, oh, I just want to give her a hug.

Heather:

There were a couple other things in here that I wanted to just bring up. As far as the details went, when they go to do the washing, she's using some yucca to do the washing, but it's a soap tree yucca, which I know in this part of the country, people hear yucca and they think of the yuca that you eat, which is different. Like you would not eat this kind of yucca. It's pretty common in the Southwest. And it looks more like a tree that's big and tall. You can eat the flowers off of this type of yucca, but you really would only use the roots for things like cleaning or things like that. So I was wondering if that was confusing...

Hannah:

Yesss

Heather:

botanically. I don't know how much kids are like into things like that, but

Ella:

I absolutely imagined that she was just scrubbing this with a potato that she found,

Hawa:

Same!

Ella:

I absolutely had no concept and was, I remember reading it as a child and being confused that soap apparently grew on trees. Um, and then imagine like a potato, just scrubbing with a potato.

Heather:

Yes, soaping away with some fried yuca, [Laughing].

Hawa:

The illustrations slightly helped, but like the illustration helped me realize, okay, it's not the one, you know, but it still kind of had me like, okay, like you said, that scrubbing potato

Hannah:

It made me hungry to think about her...

Heather:

[ Laughing] she was gonna eat the soap

Hannah:

...doing the laundry with the yuca.

Heather:

There were a couple of other things that I noticed. They brought up illiteracy again in this one, the girls can't read and it's something that Tia Dolores works with them on, in later books, that's been a really common plot device in multiple American Girl series, you know, for Addy learning to read was a big thing. Uh , Nellie in the Samantha books. It was a big thing for her as well. So I was assuming that the Learns the Lesson was going to be focused more on the learning to read. And it honestly, really wasn't like that. Like, that wasn't what the lesson was. I mean, they do learn to read like later on she's reading.

Ella:

It seemed like that's an easy softball that they just didn't even try at.

Hawa:

Yeah.

Ella:

That feels like it would be a really straightforward lesson to learn. I think siesta should be a thing. I know they are a thing.

Heather:

Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Ella:

And I take unofficial siestas, but I think that they should be built in so that I won't feel as weird about it.

Heather:

I'm very pro siesta for me as well. I don't know why we've gotten away from that.

Hawa:

What what's a siesta, did I miss...

Heather:

It's a nap? You basically have a rest period in the afternoon.

Ella:

You're just kind of like relaxed.

Hawa:

I'm absolutely here for that. I am top notch napper. Um [laughing]

Ella:

As far as I understand it, because it was like the hottest part of the day and you're supposed to be resting during that time, but also just feels really nice.

Heather:

Yeah. I mean, just having like a dedicated period of downtime, that's not like, oh, I'm taking my 15, you know, I think it's good for people.

Hannah:

I think they do it in Italy still like things will - shops and restaurants will shut down in the afternoon and then open up as it gets cooler and later.

Heather:

The descriptions of the terrain and the houses. They're very resonant for me. I mean, I, I grew up in Texas and then worked in California, I spent several years in Tucson. And so like, these are the landscapes of my childhood and I felt like these were super effective. If you have scope for that, I'm wondering for those of you who did not grow up in the Southwest, did this feel like, well-actualized to you? Like, could you picture the place? Cause I feel like these more than some of the other American Girl books are very rooted in place and in the land.

Hawa:

Yeah, I definitely feel like this book did a good job of like setting up the setting as well as like between the words and the illustrations. I think it did a really good job. Um, especially as somebody who wasn't like as familiar, but like it made me think, oh, I think I remember learning about this, like back in the day. So it kind of gave me like context. I think that they did a good job.

Ella:

I think there are a lot of intimate details that really set the scene, not just with the landscape, but I know when they're talking about Papa, they talk about his eyebrows. And like I know with my dad, that's the first thing you notice about him. And I feel like most dads, the eyebrows, it's like a thing. So like those really intimate details, I think really like set the stage on the whole thing.

Hawa:

Next that we have Josefina Learns a Lesson, a late season storm devastates the Montoya's' rancho and destroys the village harvest, Tia Dolores suggests trading hand woven blankets for sheep to replace the flock that drown in the flood. Francisco resents all the work that Tia Dolores wants them to do Tia Dolores begins to teach the girls to read and write and review with the memory of books she has kept about their mother.

Ella:

What was the lesson that she learned? I mean, I know there were a lot of like little lessons, but was there like an overarching lesson?

Heather:

Yeah. And I'm not sure it was really a lesson that Josefina learned either. Like I thought maybe Francisca like learned that, hey, it's actually important to work.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter].

Heather:

So like there's a reason for it. No, it didn't, it didn't seem to have a clear because at the end, it's not like they've learned to read by the end. They're just really starting.

Ella:

Ok

Heather:

the process. So I also was not sure what the one big take home was supposed to be for. Like, this is the lesson Josefina learned.

Hawa:

Like I'm looking at the cover now it's like Josefina Learns a Lesson, a school story. But like, is this even really a school story? Like on the cover, you see her writing, but I don't even think she ever does that in the book.

Ella:

I don't think she does either.

Heather:

She doesn't because at the end, Tia Dolores brings out this scrapbook basically that she's kept that's dedicated to her sister. So the girls' mother and they can't read yet. And this is like what convinces Francisca, That like, okay, it's worth it to work, to learn, to read because this is beautiful. I want to experience these things that have been written down about my mom

Hawa:

Could their dad read?

Heather:

Yes

Hawa:

Okay. Because I know that like she was going over like the numbers with him and like in the notebook and they were talking about how like pen and paper and ink were kind of expensive.

Heather:

He can read and write because his...

Hawa:

He wrote letters to Mama, yeah with the flourishes...

Heather :

He had such a like beautiful calligraphy signature that like won Mama's heart was like, oh,

Ella:

I kind of got like middle school vibes where you would just like over and over, like make your y's like extremely curly for no reason.

Heather:

He's like got a little heart over his i's.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Hawa:

I have a heart at the end of my signature. So you'll know it from anybody else's.

Ella:

See, Its smart.

Heather:

This one, we also, the Friends and Family section went back to American Girl, Friends and Family section labels, not making sense because the friends were Teresita, who is a friend, well she's a servant to Tia Dolores , um , but is not a blood relative. And then we had Tia Dolores who is pretty clearly family and not a friend, but you know, they got it right for one book. So I'll give them credit for that.

Ella:

They really tried.

Heather:

Um , there were some other things in here that I, I thought or interesting where they mentioned it and then didn't really explain it at all. So with Teresita, she's a Navajo woman and they say, you know, she was kidnapped when she was a young girl by an enemy tribe, I guess. So she's relating to Josefina that like, yeah, I lost my mom too because I was taken away from my family when I was young, but then they just kind of leave that there. And the back matter had like a sentence about it basically where it was like, yeah, the Navajo had some problems with other tribes, but like there wasn't really any context for that. And I thought that was kind of an odd thing too.

Ella:

That was a real casual tone to say something like that. And then to just turn back to the loom and keep going.

Hawa:

Yeah. And they kind of use it as like a moment for them to kind of like relate, which kind of one kind of felt like a reach and to someone I'm just speaking for myself as someone who is not as familiar with like the context of that story, I can imagine that most kids reading, well, not most get some kids reading. It probably wouldn't be either

Ella:

Well like, also as someone who works with children. I can't imagine turning to a child that in theory, like I've met recently and just sharing something like that and then just kind of turning away

Heather :

Leaving it there. well, and especially because you know, her grandfather is riding on this caravan and they've sort of established that, like there can be thieves on the road, there can be issues with some of the tribes along the way. And you're just kind of throwing that out there for Josefina. If, you know, like sometimes you get kidnapped by people anyways, let's make a blanket.

Hawa:

Now I'm a servant for your family.

Heather :

It felt like that'd be very anxiety provoking, especially in a child like Josefina who seems to internalize a lot of things. I did like the scenes at the looms though with her learning to weave. And I liked that it emphasized that like this was not a natural thing. Like she had to redo the same line over and over because I think in children's books, often people just kind of magically acquire great talent at things. And there's not any explanation of the work or the practice that goes into something like this. And that's especially true. I think when it relates to women's work, you know, people are just magical cooks. They're magical seamstresses, they're magic. Like they can just do it. It doesn't take any work. Children can do it. And I thought this was really good that they actually built out that like this skill that Teresita has is a skill that's like been hard, won over years and years of practice and thought, and that there was an art form to it. You know, she concentrated on the patterns in the blanket, which, you know, blankets have traditional patterns for people that are regional or they're tribe based. And, and so there's like real meaning and tradition behind the blankets that they're making.

Ella:

I definitely agree with that. And that was something I wanted to bring up about this series, because again, I haven't read any of the other American Girl dolls besides listening to this incredible podcast. So there does seem to be, and I know it's also the time period, very strict traditional gender roles , um, where they talk about Papa. Like can't teach the girls, he has to have his sister-in-law come. And there's a line about talking business with a woman. So I agree with you that I think that that was a really good move to highlight it.

Hawa:

They were trying to figure out how they were gonna approach Papa for something. And they were like, well, you know, you can't talk to him like that. Like it has to be very politely and you know,

Heather:

He's a patron. And like, they commented on like, oh, I can't believe Tia Dolores made a suggestion.

Hawa:

Right, about.

Heather:

...to say like, Hey, let's do these blankets and then we can trade them. And we can try to replace the flock that got washed away. And the girls are like shocked, that like, well Pop, never talked business with our mom Tia Dolores is so bold to like, bring up this, this idea.

Ella:

It reminds me of that older common saying about how if the father is head, then the woman, the mother is the neck of the household. Um , so the man like is the figurehead, but like the mother is the one that like controls everything and like makes everything run smoothly. Um, and I think they talk a little bit about that when they're talking about Mama, about how she made everything run really smoothly

Heather:

Yeah, and like all of the parties and things that like, it ran like a well-oiled machine when they would be getting ready to host the other families from the village. Even though the girls do comment several times, like, well, we could never say this to Papa or like, I can't believe Tia Dolores is going to say that to, to dad. We never see him reacting in a negative way to anything that they bring up or that Tia Dolores brings up, which I think is good because it would have been really hard to latch on to him as a character. If we had seen a lot of pushback from him when the girls showed agency.

Ella:

He's written with a lot of like gentle smiles or like, you know, knowing little nods. So I agree that he definitely has a lot of like really tiny, positive reinforcement to give them.

Hawa:

Yeah and they talk about like how they were like, oh yeah, Mama was the Mama was the one who remembered to ask , uh , if you're, if someone's feeling better or ask how the harvest is and stuff like that, or Papa was kinda like, you know, he was just a man

Heather :

Tia Dolores's hair is really confusing to me.

Ella:

Yes.

Heather:

because in the first book, it is very clearly described as auburn and like springy curls, but she never looks like that in any of the illustrations,

Hawa:

Nope.

Ella:

There's something about her having red hair at some point as well.

Hawa:

Yes.

Heather:

It's repeated. It's in the second book, it's reddish and shiny. Then at the end of the second book, they say curly, Auburn hair again. But in the illustration, she always appears to have like pretty sleek black hair.

Hannah:

I was confused by that too

Hawa:

There is one illustration where if you look real hard and close one eye and like, look, you can kind of maybe see that, like, there's a.

Heather:

There's a mahogany.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Hawa:

there's like a, maybe like a reddish tint now was just like, but this is not what I imagined in reading this. So...

Ella:

Well, I was going to say, is it, are these books, the illustrations and the books written at this made at the same time, or is the book written after the illustrations are before it, because it could just be, it could just be a disconnect of.

Heather:

that's true.

Ella:

I know what this looks like

Heather:

This family is all gonna look the same. And then that's not how the author wrote it. You would think that the illustrating would happen after the text, but that's a good point. Maybe it didn't,

Ella:

Sorry, maybe she was dying her hair and then just gave up.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter].

Ella:

the illustrator was nice enough not to mention it

Hawa:

While we're speaking on the illustrations. I just want to say, I think that the Josefina books of the ones I've read because I've only read Addy and Samantha, I think Josefina's illustrations are probably my favorite

Ella:

I think too, because the landscape is so open. It really lets it really let the illustrator focus on her and her family. So there wasn't like a bustling city behind her that, you know, we had to draw our eyes away from

Heather :

That's a good point. I did want to bring up "handing someone the squash."

Ella:

I love it

Heather:

So we learn in this book that Francisca who is the beautiful sister and you know, has all these social graces and is really into dancing. And she's of a marriageable age has apparently received a good many marriage proposals. And the way that you decline a marriage proposal is to send back a squash, which I love. I want to give people squashes instead of telling them no now

Hawa:

I have a color printer around here somewhere. I'll print some off for you [Laughter] so you can just keep them in your back pocket. You don't have to like, wait. No, but I actually that's that's that's really cool because it's, it's like polite, but you still get the message almost like, yeah, you don't get love out of this, but you get a full stomach.

Heather :

Thanks for asking here's a squash.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Hannah:

I feel like if you gave Florecita a squash, she would just eat it and not change her behavior at all. She would not take it as a, no, she would take it as a oh, it's a snack. [Laughter]

Ella:

That's really shows how toxic she is because she doesn't respect the tradition.

Heather:

No means no. Florecita.

Ella:

No means no.

Hawa:

How dare she.

Ella:

Do think they eat the squashes afterwards? I mean, you would, it would be weird not to, but it would feel sad. I think

Hawa:

You'd be embarrassed to be seen eating squash like, oh, you must have just gotten rejected [Laughing]

Ella:

Give him some space. He's eating squash for lunch.

Heather:

Yeah, You see some guy with like, he's digging into like some calabacitas that people are just like, oh, bad day. [Laughter] That's awesome. Um, yeah. I don't know if you would eat it or if it was more just like a representational quash, like decorative gourd.

Ella:

Do you think if she gets so many marriage proposals that they have had to increase their production of squash to match it?

Heather:

That was why, u m, Carmen and her husband were like frantically harvesting the garden when it flooded. [Laughter] They were like, Francisca is going to need to say no what's happen. If we run out of squash,

Ella:

we're going to accidentally end up with a husband

Hawa:

Accidentally end up with a couple of husbands. Josefina's Surprises up next. This is the Christmas one. Christmas is almost here, but it's bittersweet for the Montoya's who are mourning for Mama at the one - year anniversary of her death. Clara is having the hardest time and has hidden a special family doll that Mama made so she won't have to pass it down to Josefina. The girls work to repair Mama's damaged altar cloth. Clara gives the doll to Josefina and Josefina steps in as Maria for the last night of Las Posadas

Ella:

I really liked this one specifically for the doll. Um, because we had a blue haired doll that got passed though my family. And at some point I ended up with it and luckily my sister and I have a big enough age gap where there was no expectation of me giving her the doll.

Hawa:

So you still have it.

Ella:

I do still have it. [Laughter]. I do it's from my grandmother and it lives with me. But by the time, like it got to a point where like she wanted it. I was in high school. And so like I didn't time to give it to her. So I just kept it.

Heather:

I mean, I just felt bad for her though, like that would be super hard. Like you don't have a lot of things if you lose a parent in this time period, like people didn't have a lot of stuff.

Hawa:

right.

Heather:

So there probably weren't a lot of keepsakes. I mean, all of the little keepsakes we see that Josefina keeps are things that remind her of her mom. They're not things that were her mother's, per se. So, you know, she has this really tangible, like this was made with my mom's hands. That would be incredibly hard for a child to part with. I thought it was very sweet. I loved this one also like Ella, I think this reminded me so much of my own childhood. Uh, the Las Posadas tradition is something that we did when I was a kid and we did it at my school. I went to a Catholic grade school. And so rather than going house to house during the Christmas season, we would go classroom to classroom and the classrooms would turn away Mary and Joseph going down the hall and one classroom would let them in. And so which classroom got designated as the party classroom each day changed. And then the last day it would be to the church. Yeah. I mean, lots of these are really evocative to me and nostalgic in a way. Cause again, I, I spent all of my formative years, like in border states and Hispanic Catholicism was a huge part of my childhood and my family's traditions. You know, my grandparents grew up in Mexico and so the food and the culture and the religion, like all of this felt very real to me. I did want to bring up the food though. This is really the first one where we have much food brought up beyond like just tortillas. And so we have the chilis that they bring to the neighbor lady to make the stew for the day that they host. We have the bizcocho cookies.

Hawa:

Which looked really good.

Heather:

Valerie Tripp, as we've discussed back in the Samantha series is not big on food in the books. Like there was a very stark divide between the first three Samantha books that she hadn't written. There was food everywhere. And then you hit the Valerie Tripp ones and it's like much more generic descriptions of food. That is one thing in this series that I wish had been more present because I think food is so important culturally. And I just wish it had been as detailed as some of like her landscape descriptions and things like that.

Ella:

All I was going to say, especially with her descriptive writing, I would have given almost anything to read her descriptive writing of some of the dishes that I know that they were cooking because I'm hungry. Just thinking about it instead of just a hundred different occasions that they are eating a tortilla

Heather :

This part of New Mexico is it's a desert. You know, you are growing things that you can grow there and there's sort of this, I mean, they talk about the acequias. Like, there's this sort of constant fight with the environment to produce what you need. So I, I just felt like that could have been worked in a little bit more. I mean, there were some nods to it where it's like, we're grateful for the food we have and like, oh the sheep, that's a huge loss, but it just wasn't as rich as like you're saying, like her descriptions are so rich about other parts of the text. And I , I was missing that here

Ella:

Or even like the description of the food prep I would have taken because I mean, I know my family makes Christmas tamales and making them is such an event and something that's so important to us. So I would have even really liked if she picked one of those four dishes that she knew and like really gotten to how they're made and like what goes into it, especially for that time period. Because I think most of the prep is either kind of like an overview of what's happening in the kitchen or they're going to the garden to get things like there's no real

Heather :

There's not a lot of cooking, right?

Ella:

Yeah.

Heather:

Like it's just kind of like okay, well there's Ana throwing some tortillas on the grill basically. Like there's not a lot there. They're just in the kitchen. And it just happens to be taking place there. I could picture in my head what the kitchen would have looked like for these folks, but I don't know that everyone could, unless they have that same background. So yeah. Tamales are a great example. Like everyone has a different role, but everyone puts hands on it. And that's important too. Like it's, it comes from everyone. The food comes from everyone that was in that kitchen. And that's part of why it's special.

Ella:

Yeah, no, I definitely agree.

Hawa:

I think the way they talked about how they work together to fix the, what was it, the cloth,

Ella:

OH yeah.

Hawa:

the way they talked about, they came together to how they fixed the cloth.

Heather:

The altar cloth.

Hawa:

The altar cloth. It kind of would have been interesting to see some of the energy towards how they maybe worked in the kitchen as well. Even though I know the cloth, the altar cloth was, you know, the whole thing was, you know, the mom, she was the one who fixed it and then it got ruined in the flood and it came together to, to make it a better Christmas and you know, but they spent a lot of time on that cloth.

Heather:

They did

Hannah:

They spend a lot of time on, on that. That's a really good point. And they spend so much time on handicraft in general, the sewing and the weaving and the cloth. And it would have been nice if she had spared a little bit more time that she spent on the handicraft, not to detract from it, on the cooking. And the food

Heather :

I did like when they were working on the altar cloth though, that they were trying to bring Clara around to helping with it because she was the best at doing the embroidery, the culture , um, that her mom had taught. Like she had the most aptitude for that. I liked the part where Francisca like... She's supposed to be doing swallows and Josefina thinks she's done a chicken.

Ella:

Oh, their fat chickens.

Heather:

Yeah.

Hawa:

It looks just like the one that , uh , the neighbor lady gave us

Heather :

Us that was really a charming, like little piece of, of that interlude with the family, because it was, you could picture it. It was very vivid. Like, but then Clara was like, oh, I can fix it. It was like, how?

Ella:

Slim 'em up there

Heather:

Exactly. How are you going to like slim down this chicken to look like a swallow. But I thought that was a really cute part of it.

Hawa:

It was to give you insight on just how much of her Mama's expertise she got handed down. Side note do we know, do we ever know what happens to the mom?

Heather:

No. I don't think so

Hawa:

She went and she died, but like they didn't. Yeah.

Hannah:

I don't think they ever tell us.

Heather:

I mean given that it's American Girl. I assume she got cold.

Ella:

I was going to say, I was imagining some sort of illness.

Hawa:

Yeah.

Heather:

Yeah Everyone dies from cold

Hawa:

Speaking of someone getting sick. I mean, Margarita didn't die, but she got conveniently ill.

Heather:

By being in the cold!

Hawa:

Just in time for, for just in time for Josefina to be like, I'm going to be Maria after all.

Heather :

Yeah. I got to that part too. And it's like, Señora Sanchez comes and she's like, oh no!, Like Margarita can't do it because she was out in the cold. And I was like, are you kidding me? Because I feel like every single American Girl series we've had somebody have a horrible result of, well, they got cold, which is not a thing!

Hannah:

But I think parents were maybe telling people that around the time these books started coming out, am I making that up was that just my parents?

Ella:

No, I feel like my parents also were like, don't go outside, you'll catch a chill or catch a cold, which apparently to them was fatal.

Hawa:

So does is Clara the one that makes the dress for the doll that she passes down to Josefina.

Heather:

Yes.

Hawa:

When did she have time to do that? But then again, she did spend a lot of time just saying, oh, I'm not helping you all with this.

Heather:

She was in a room a lot. And she's like a savant at ...

Ella:

she's a really fast...

Hawa:

Yeah. Maybe in between , uh , when she decided she was going to give it up cause you know Josefina, there's a part where it shows Josefina goes to go grab her. And she sees that Clara has hidden the doll and is trying to keep it for herself. And then she kind of just like, okay, I'm gonna let her have that. You know, she, she and her, she talks to her aunt and her aunt was like, you know, you need that. She just like how you're not ready to be in the play. You need your time from the songs then, you know, your sister needs this doll. So I thought that was. I thought it was sweet that she made the dress.

Heather:

I was so that she made the really well done though. Like Tia Dolores's explanation, I thought was very appropriate for how you would explain that to a child. And it was, it was incredibly like empathetic towards both of them, you know? And it put it in a way that Josefina could understand it and be okay with it. At least for the time being like he had. Tia Dolores is a boss, man.

Hawa:

She really is.

Heather:

She's just in here running everything and being like a great parent.

Ella:

She spent all that time by herself, reading books about parenting.

Heather:

She must have. She came prepared,

Hannah:

Dying her hair.

Ella:

Dying her hair

Heather:

It would've been like super hard to like you go from being a woman who is taking care of, I guess an elderly aunt was who she was caring for in Mexico city.

Ella:

Who probably caught a cold.

Heather:

Probably caught cold. U m, and didn't make it.

Ella:

Didn't make it,

Heather:

but then she's thrown into this situation where she's now caring for four girls, the running of a pretty sizeable household, because there's like many servants and on his whole family and like,

Hawa:

And the blanket business.

Heather:

There's a lot going on on the rancho and then like also dealing with her dead sibling's, spouse's grief, plus her own group, like she's getting it done. I was very impressed with Tia Dolores. Admirable character.

Hawa:

This is a Tia Dolores Stan account

Ella:

Because I imagine she hasn't had any experience with any of that. I did want to talk about though that in this book, I really enjoy how she talks about the goat as quote, her "old enemy" as if they're just, rivals or, you know, this is this big feud that goes on and on. There really is like a lot of emotion around that goat.

Hannah:

I mean, I, you know, a goat makes a great nemesis. I think she chose well

Heather :

Florecita is legit, like my favorite character and this, I feel like she's very accurately drawn. I love goats. She resembles goats I have personally known, um but like the, like, long - term like, well, I guess it's in a frenemy stage in the latter books.

Ella:

Well that's because Josefina shoved her. Like if someone just shoved me, like, I'd kind of be nicer to them.

Hawa:

She's like, I'm not scared of you now. You never want to mess with my momma's flowers.

Heather :

Right. I mean, I thought that was accurate. Like anybody that's been around livestock as a kid, there is always an animal that like, you just can't with

Ella:

Do you have personal experience with this.

Heather:

Yeah.

Ella:

Please go on.

Heather:

So my family has a ranch, but like seriously, like if you ask people that like grew up around livestock, especially they will have a story about some animal that was like just the bane of their existence,

Ella:

I've never spent any real time around animals. I'm very much from the city. Um, so I was very surprised as a child to read this book and this highly, what I thought to be a highly aggressive goat and this was my only experience with goats. I'd never seen a goat before these books. I like read about them and knew what they were, but I'd never been around a goat before. So reading this as a child, I was terrified of her as well, because she seemed like a big bully.

Heather :

Well, she is. I mean that, and again, that's very true to goat. Goats have their own agendas about things I did put like in our notes when we were planning this one, a link to a YouTube video of the goat that like I immediately thought of when I was reading Florecita. So we can maybe put that in the blog.

Hannah:

Yes. I'll put that in the blog.

Heather:

But like, there's a great whole category of YouTube videos on goats being jerks to people that are like well worth watching.

Heather :

Goats are the best

Hawa:

You're taking me down a rabbit hole afterwards after this episode.

Ella:

A goat hole.

Heather :

Yeah, No, it's hilarious. Goats are amazing.

Hawa:

Goat hole! So next up we have Happy Birthday Josefina, Josefina's birthday is almost here and Tia Dolores wants to throw a party for her. Woo-hoo! Poor Florecita kicks the bucket after giving birth and Josefina takes care of the baby, Sombrita nursing her to health. Josefina begins to learn about plants and herbs from Tia Magdalena, the village curandera. A visit to friends at the pueblos results in a scary rattlesnake bite to Mariana, but Josefina heals her using a root and what she has learned from Tia Magdalena.

Heather :

Yeah. This one, I just can't believe that happened to Florecita that I was so mad, I was legitimately like, Valerie Tripp, how are you going to do that to me? She just killed her off like that.

Hawa:

She didn't get a redemption arc.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Ella:

And she was close too

Hawa:

Yeah like she was so close

Heather:

She is coming around. They were, you know, they kind of mended the fence.

Hannah:

They were starting to respect each other.

Heather:

They have a pretty decent like detente between the two of them. And then they just kill her. That was terrible.

Hawa:

But like Sombrita's like the little baby it's like her, literally her little shadow. So that was cute.

Heather:

Sombrita is adorable.

Hannah:

Somebody needs to write a piece of fanfiction that fixes that. [Laughter]

Heather :

Brings Florecita back? That would be awesome.

Ella:

No one instructs her. And I don't think she's like been that close to the goats. Cause she only recently got over her fear was just like, here's a goat. And she's like, cool, thank you. She couldn't Google it.

Heather :

It was kind of abrupt is just like, eh, I'll give it to you, but it might die. And then like, he just yeah

Ella:

That was kind of it yeah

Hawa:

I've had to say, yeah, he definitely thought the goat was going to die. I was just like, well, she can't make it any worse. Right. Cause it's going to die anyway. And then he's like, oh, you didn't kill it

Ella:

Some of my best ideas have come from. I can't possibly make this worse. So might as well,

Hawa:

That's the lesson that should have been in a Josefina Learns a Lesson.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Heather:

Right.

Hannah:

So is Sombrita going to stay cute and adorable forever. Is she going to become like a huge , thoughtless goat that like thinks she belongs everywhere. Cause I think that maybe what's gonna happen.

Ella:

She's going to avenge her mother [Laughter] Gonna. follow in her dark footprints or hoof prints.

Hannah:

Right? Like she's going to have like, I don't know a house cat status. I don't...

Ella:

I wonder if she will think that she's better than other goats. Because she's like in the house.

Hannah:

She like I'm allowed on the bed.

Ella:

It's like those, u m, cats that are raised with dogs and dogs that are raised with cats and then they think they're one of them. I wonder if she's just going to think she's like a little human.

Hannah:

I could see that happening. I want to read that story.

Heather :

Sombrita' s kind of spoiled later on. She gets carried for five miles, which is a lot.

Ella:

I do also want to point out that she almost got someone killed.

Multiple speakers:

She did

Ella:

and I definitely don't want to be the person that pits a human life against the goat life. But...

Hawa:

I would have let that goat

Ella:

I,

Heather:

I mean, Sombrita had more character development than Marianna though so...

Hawa:

Yeah she was the friend that showed up in the one book.

Heather:

Mariana was just a convenient plot device.

Ella:

Yeah. Can you imagine if she had to go back to Papa and say, well,

Hawa:

Whoops.

Ella:

I have the, I saved the goats. Where's your friend?

Hawa:

And that's the thing. It was wild. That Marianna was the one that got bit and not, I mean, granted, she threw the rock, but like I really thought the Josefina was going to be the one that get bit. Cause she was the one getting close enough to be able to try to grab the goat, which is what the snake clearly wanted.

Heather :

I did think that the whole thing was , uh, Sombrita like killing Florecita. It seemed like it was set up just to get that hand touch between Tia Dolores and the father. There's like a moment where it's tense and he's going to be like, well, the goat might die to Josefina, but you can give it a go, but he doesn't want to say that. And Tia Dolores is like, you know, and touches his hand. It was like, oh the tension!. And then I felt a weird way about like shipping the aunt and the dad. And I was like, oh no, this is weird.

Ella:

I also had like a weird, slightly spicy, like a cliffhanger at the end between them.

Hawa:

They did. Yes. I was literally thinking of the same thing. There's definitely like palpable heat between them, which is like a lot

Ella:

I know that in the context of historical accuracy that it's fine, but I don't like it from my modernist perspective

Heather :

Same if I think about it, it's squeaky.

Ella:

[Laughter]

Heather:

Like, it kind of makes my eye Twitch when I start to actually think it out. And then I'm like, oh no, like but again, we were talking about how American Girls had done us dirty on this before, because they made a ship a nine year old and a 16 year old. And now they're making us ship, an aunt and a dad. Yeah. I don't know. There's a lot going on with the Valerie Tripp book romance.

Hawa:

And this doesn't really seem like much about her birthday in general. Like they, I mean, granted a lot of the Happy Birthday books, aren't like super happy birthday based, but like it's very much like in the beginning actually. I don't think they even mentioned to her birthday's coming up until like the second or third chapter. And then they're like, oh, we want to do a party for her. But...

Ella:

None of these titles make any sense.

Heather :

No, the titles never make sense. It's like,

Hawa:

They're trying to be consi- stick with the consistency. Cause they set it up for the first couple of books and I'm just like

Ella:

Well, the other thing is in the back of the book, they talk about how traditionally for birthdays, like you got stuff like fruit or nuts or like something little like that. So I can't imagine that that made a book's worth of content. If someone just handed you some trail mix.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Hawa:

I like that. We get to see more of her , uh, her godmother in this book. Um, and she like learned from her cause she wants to be a curandera. Am I saying that right?

Heather:

Yeah. Curandera.

Hawa:

So like, yeah. And she's like, her godmother is like, yeah, like why do you want to do this? And she's like, I want to help people. And I want to, you know, I guess like the whole thing of this book was supposed to be, oh, after , uh, her friend got bitten, that's when she was able to truly prove that she was worthy of being one. But like in the beginning she broke the vase that had been in the community for like ages. And I'm like, girl, what are you doing? Like...

Heather:

Yeah.

Hawa:

Why she not run away! You dusting it off would have proven that you were worthy of doing like didn't you already dust it off when you were in there earlier that I missed that part. Like

Ella:

So I think earlier she had asked Josefina not.

Heather:

Don't touch it

Hawa:

Not to touch it, ok.

Ella:

Don't dust it, don't anything Because it's really fragile because it's been in the community for so long.

Hawa:

All the more reason not to touch it [ laughter]

Ella:

You know, that's reader's speak for this is going to be broken...

Multiple speakers:

Yeah

Heather:

No, we had a lot of like Chekov's jar, Chekov's globe mallow plant. Um, and this one, like when she gives her, Tia Magdalena is telling her about all of these different herbs and what does, what, and if you dry these leaves, you can make a tea and it'll fix a stomach ache and you can use this to cure a rattlesnake bite. So she gives her this little piece of the globe mallow plant, which is, you know, the remedy for a rattlesnake bite,

Hawa:

How convenient.

Heather:

It was convenient. And when I read it, I put in my notes, like this is like the bees were in Harry Potter. Oh yeah, exactly like the bees were in Harry Potter because it does come into play. Then later when, u m, Mariana gets bitten by the snake and then she draws the venom out by using the globe mallow plant. This one I thought really hurt from she needed to accomplish this piece of character growth. And then she just kind of shoe horned in these stray characters to make that happen. I don't know. I wish we would have gotten more about Esteban and Mariana. I felt like we got this very cursory they live at the Pueblo, but that's such a significant culture and part of New Mexican heritage. Like I wish there would have been a little bit more there again, it's sort of like the cooking thing

Hawa:

Even though she kind of caused the problem. Josefina kind of caused the problem in a way. I do think she saved the day more in this book. Then she did an actual save the day

Heather :

Agree.

Ella:

Agree

Heather:

She saved somebody's life, like and I guess technically Sombrita caused the problem, but also like why did she take Sombrita to the Pueblo? They said like Sombrita walked one mile and got too tired. And then she had to carry her the rest of the six mile journey, which is bananas. Like why?

Ella:

I think the goat could have stayed home.

Hawa:

Absolutely.

Ella:

Just this once.

Hawa:

So in this next book, the Montoya's are in Santa Fe and the americanos are coming. The family plans to trade blankets and mules to buy sheep to replace their drowned flock, but Josefina introduces them to an American named Patrick O'Toole all to integrate himself with the family. We learned that Papa is a fantastic fiddler and the girls attempt to trade their blankets for a violin for Papa. O'Toole sends Francisca and Josefina on an ill-advised midnight treasure hunt when he has to leave town.

Heather :

This book was wild. I don't know what was going on here at all. Like this was such a strange introduction of this, this guy, Hey, it's this gringo from Missouri. And he introduces himself to Josefina by saying, excuse me I thought you were a bird. [Laughter] Which is so weird! Cause she was playing a whistle, but it's, it's so odd. It's just so very odd.

Hawa:

Ans she's like struck by how he looks. She's like, oh, this is the first americano I've ever seen. Like girl, it's a white man with blue eyes.

Ella:

They don't have those there.

Heather:

Yeah. And like Francisca is like clearly quite taken with him. So I thought we were supposed to be shipping them and that they were going to marry her off. But then it's like, why is she taken by him? He's described as like a sunburned guy that like is of ambiguous age. I don't know. The whole thing was a little strange...

Hawa:

The age thing I wasn't sure about either like...

Ella:

She likes her man. Like she likes her tortillas, which is very crispy.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter].

Heather:

a little charred... [Laughter]

Ella:

I also was like, oh, okay, perfect. We're going to see a wedding.

Heather:

Yeah!

Ella:

No, no,

Heather:

No.

Hawa:

Not yet.

Heather:

Well, not ever. Maybe it happens outside of this box set, but it doesn't happen in these

Ella:

The forbidden set [Laughter] the afterword's...

Heather :

For context, they meet this guy who is working with the Americans and he's sort of, they're representing his father who has traded with Abuelito in the past. So they're in Santa Fe, there's lots of trading going on and he says, Hey, I can get your mules sold for you for a really good price. I can get it sold for silver instead of just trade. So they trust him and agree to do this. The girls have a few blankets to trade. They decide to like save up the blankets to get the violin from Mr. O'Toole for their dad who was apparently like great at violin, but has given it up after their mom died.

Hawa:

And this was the first mention of that.

Heather:

It was.

Hawa:

Okay.

Ella:

And it's only been a year.

Heather:

It's taking us down the Sound of Music path that continues through the next book. So we'll get back to the violin. He then has to leave. And rather than just like going by the house and dropping off the stuff for the girls, he hides it at a church and leaves them like basically a weird treasure map?

Hawa:

Because they and their whole thing was like, because he, he knew they couldn't read and he couldn't write in Spanish. And blah - blah - blah so he just left the turquoise on top of the map. And that's how they knew to go to the church. That was such a reach.

Heather:

Yeah. It was cause they could read at this point.

Ella:

Could they?

Hawa:

Well they could, I think they could have read, but he couldn't write in Spanish and he couldn't write in Spanish and they couldn't read English.

Ella:

I feel like they could've gotten an adult.

Heather:

He could have like written phonetically and they would've gotten the jist

Hawa:

My thing is why did he leave? He left the note about the violin, but didn't have time to leave a note about the

Heather and Hawa :

Mules!

Heather:

No and and ...

Hawa:

And that was supposed to show, he was trustworthy

Heather:

I blame Valerie Tripp for all of this. She has a weird like fixation with goofy treasure map quest. Cause she did this exact same thing in Felicity Saves the day. Right? Because that was how she went and found Ben who had like twig-sassinated himself in the forest.

Hannah:

He did his map of blood that he put in a place nobody would ever have looked.

Heather:

Yes!

Hannah:

In the bird house .

Heather:

It's such a bizarre plot device. And it just made me mad at him. t was like, well now I don't want you to be with Francisca because you were grossly irresponsible, sir.

Ella:

That's true. They had to go through that potentially drunk man.

Heather:

Yes!

Ella:

Which surprised me as a child.

Multiple speakers:

Yeah!

Heather:

Failed by that weird guy!

Hawa:

That was kinda creepy

Ella:

And what if someone had taken the stuff? It's just a lot of, it seems like a lot of hassle.

Heather:

It really was.

Hawa:

So I was going to say, this is the line that stood out to me, this literally the last line of the book. So I guess Papa is playing his violin. Josefina saw that she was not the only one awake listening to Papa, standing in the doorway to her room, humming Papa's song with Tia Dolores. And that's how they ended this book. And I'm just like, yeah, okay. We know what's, something's going to happen in the next book. This is - they're They're like, well, if you didn't catch the hints before, you're definitely gonna catch these hints now. Like their end game [Laughing]

Heather :

When you read it, you're kind of like, oh this is, you know, this is very sweet and it's this sort of simmering tension. And then you're like, wait a minute. This is his dead wife's sister. And now we're in a weird place again.

Ella:

I do have a question though about the writing style and instruments in this whole series. This might be another example of things aren't written quite how they are. So in going back to when Tia Dolores first gets there and her piano falls into a gully, it's only scratched.

Heather:

It would not have survived that

Hannah:

I think Tia Dolores has magical powers. She can change her hair with a snap of a fingers. She can fix pianos magically. She's teaching that to Clara. And so that's why Clara can turn embroidered chickens into embroidered swallows.[Laughter]

Heather :

That's awesome. I like the Tia Dolores as bruja theory.

Ella:

Ooh.

Heather:

That would have made these better. If that had been explicit.

Ella:

I do hope that then Clara gets a spinoff. That's like a YA fantasy. And she has magical powers that have been given to her.

Hannah:

I would read that story.

Ella:

I would also read that story with the violin. There are so many natural points in their interactions where he would just be like, oh, Hey, I played the violin once. That just seems like a weird thing to not share with someone

Heather :

And like a huge part of his life, apparently because not only does he play violin, which I'm sure back then, there were plenty of people that played by ear. He appears to be like quite trained because.

Hawa:

he could have .

Heather:

a tool guy writes out sheet music for the song he was singing or whistling and playing. Um, and he just reads it

Ella:

And then he makes a remix.

Heather:

Yeah.

Hawa:

Oh, she randomly mentioned the whole violin thing to this guy. She just met, but she didn't mention it to her aunt? Like granted, the guy was actually playing a violin, but still

Ella:

I'm going to add it to the list of things that would be easily solved. If people just had a conversation..

Hawa:

Let's get into the last one of these couple of books that changes for Josefina. Everything is lovely in the Montoya home until Tia Dolores announced that it is time for her to go, frowny face, Abuelito and Abuelita, come to move Tia Dolores back home and reveal that Abuelito is joining a truck a wagon train to Missouri. The girls are heartsick and propose a plan for Dolores to stay Papa and Dolores finally revealed their love for each other and everyone celebrates at their wedding.

Ella:

So, I actually skipped this one as a child because I saw where the train was headed. And I did not want to get off at that station.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter].

Hawa:

Really!?

Ella:

Yeah I had, I had the whole box set and I like read them and I saw where they were going. And as a child, I didn't want to go there. So I think I like may have skimmed this one, but I also think maybe like, I just didn't read it,

Hawa:

You blocked that part of your memory out [Laughter]

Heather :

I mean, it's an earned resolution. Like, cause again, you see this coming from miles away. Like we've had multiple, like probably since the second book it's been heading one direction down the tracks, man. You think about it too much. Oh!

Ella:

Well I think the thing is too, like, I feel like children's books nowadays, when there's something going on with weddings or marriages or new relationships, the trend is to be very upfront with the kid. Like, Hey, like I'm meeting my friend. I think maybe like, you know, we're going to go on a date, but this one just was like weird, hidden longings that like as a reader you had to find and that made it feel worse.

Heather :

I mean, they could have made her a cousin or something. I just ugh yeah, it's a lot. So "honest kids" have names. Finally not till the sixth book we get anything.

Hannah:

I was literally thinking the same thing!

Heather:

Other than the boys, boys, which was weird, but their names are Juan and Antonio. Again, this follows out the Sound of Music arc. So like at this point, they're both in love with each other because the music brought them together. They dance for host Josefina for host Josefina. They waltz for her. And at this point they both like realize the attraction is too strong. This is too much just like in Sound of Music, this fateful dance. And then they both decide this is bad. She thinks he doesn't love her. He thinks she doesn't love him. She's going to leave so that he can be free to be with someone he actually loves, he doesn't want to ask her to stay because she's always had to give up everything for everybody. And she would stay if we asked, but that's not right. And they just won't talk to each other...

Ella:

Another situation where a conversation...

Heather :

And they can't talk to them because that would be rude

Hawa:

At this point. I guess they figured, you know, dad and auntie are really feeling each other. We need to get her to stay. They even come up with this whole plan for like , um, Ana and her kids and her husbands would go stay with , uh , Abuelita, since Abuelito is leaving. And then they're like, okay. And then I guess the dad writes the letter or something and is like, okay, sure. Ana can still go. But Tia, Tia, Dolores is still leaving. And I'm just like, wrong letter buddy!

Heather :

Yeah! Long letter. He didn't write a proposal letter . He just wrote a, Hey, would it be okay if Ana came and like held down the Fort for you guys instead of Tia, Dolores? Because Abuelito is bananas. Why is he getting on a caravan to Missouri!

Hawa:

He always says that it was his last trip.

Heather:

And his old too. And then, I mean, and Abuelita was kind-of a drag in the last book. Like she was just very negative about everything, but now I can see why, because this man is just constantly running off and doing foolish things that he should not be doing at his age.

Ella:

It sounds very stressful. Also Clara was definitely a little bit extra of a killjoy in this one,

Heather:

mm hmm

Ella:

I mean, she is always very practical, which I respect. But in this one I feel like she was just very negative.

Hawa:

This was probably my least favorite of this series to be honest. Um, maybe cause of the whole wedding thing, I just wasn't feeling that, but also just like, is that really what happened. Like if we, I think because we already, I already kind of had a feeling that they were going to get married. So it was kind of just like , uh , okay, well, it finally happened. But even with that, like the whole, the whole thing maybe took like, oh, she, he sent the proposal letter and she said, yes, next page. They got married. The next page, the book is over. Like...

Ella:

I think there were a lot more interesting plot points that could have been followed ,

Hawa:

Yeah

Ella:

uh , that were not

Heather:

Totally agree , It, It felt like she was sort of trying to make it a comedy of errors, but there was no comedy in it.

Ella:

No, it was just like...

Heather:

I was just errors. So it was not a feel good book.

Hawa:

The changes were more, so things practically staying the same because she's not leaving, but well her sister-in-law so...

Ella:

I do like the idea of the Milagro as the anti-squash. Like you can, those are the only two things

Hawa:

and it was a shape of a heart. Very romantic.

Ella:

Yes. There's only yes or no. Will I grow or the squash, so, okay.

Hannah:

The books would have been better if Florecita had been in them.

Multiple speakers:

I agree

Heather :

Oh I agree. She would have brought chaotic energy to the mix and something would have happened.

Hawa:

Clearly. Florecita has a fan club in you all, because...

Heather :

I would like to see what would have happened if you got Florecita, and O'Toole in the same space, it would have just been bonkers.

Hannah:

She would have driven him I'm away, which would have been good. Cause he was annoying and confusing

Heather :

She might have bored him or something that would have been

Hawa:

Long live Florecita.

Heather:

Yes.

Multiple speakers:

[Laughter]

Ella:

I need at least one strong...

Heather:

never forget

Ella:

platonic person and Tia Dolores, wasn't it.

Heather:

No

Ella:

So that's why I need the goat. Each episode our Intrepid researcher will enchant us with scintillating factoids related to our book. It's time to dive in and explore my ephemera. Hi there everyone. I'm Ella. And this is my ephemera. The part of the podcast where I tell you about some of the neat things I've learned while doing research while I'm not bilingual, my dad is growing up. I didn't feel like I saw a lot of myself and my family in literature, despite being a pretty aggressive reader. That might be why reading Josefina stories growing up was so revolutionary for me. I loved seeing the language shifts in the books. And I remember excitedly sharing the words from the glossary with my dad, who I think was surprised at the time when Josefina books were first published, all of them were released in both Spanish and English. The books are translated by Jose Moro who chose to write in an antique style Spanish. All of the Spanish copies include a note at the beginning of the books, explaining that the translation is representative of a stylist Spanish that would have been spoken in New Mexico in 1924, when and where the stories take place, as has been the practice. The English versions have the Spanish words written in italics with the aforementioned glossary in the back, but the debate is on whether it should continue or not. Last year. Social media is all an increase in discussions, urging writers to move away from italicize and quote unquote foreign words. Gohari Baroque in her article for Catapult Magazine writes, quote, the practice of italicizing such words is a form of linguistic gatekeeping, a demarcation between quote, exotic words and those who have a rightful place in the text. Although this discussion has re - emerged numerous times in the previous years, the spotlight on the decentralization of whiteness seems to have given a new life. I'm interested to see where it goes. Thanks for joining me on this deep dive I'm Ella and this is my ephemera.

Hawa:

So how do y'all think this book held up? The, the this series held up the host Josefina series?

Heather:

I mean, I think pretty well, like this series didn't have some of the like glaring instances of like, oh, yikes, this is cultural erasure. Or , uh , this is a really rosy picture of slavery and plantation. Like it didn't have any of the like big flaws that we saw in some of the other books. You know, the only thing I can think of where it was kinda like a, oh, I wish they would have done that differently was the thing with Teresita mentioning the kidnapping by someone and then the trip to the pueblo, I felt should have been more like fleshed out because it was kind-of very superficial her look at a really important culture in that area.

Ella:

I also think that, I mean, I, I agree with you. I don't think there was a lot of external stimulus for the story. So there wasn't really any social commentary that was happening. It really was just the family interacting with each other, which again is very accurate, I think for that time. Um, and I would agree. I, I do think that the books could have explored the indigenous area more completely instead of just either being kidnapped or doing the kidnapping. Which do I feel like is not,

Hawa:

Yeah...

Ella:

not, not a good take. And I do think that back matter left me a little wanting for that as well.

Hawa:

Also. Do you guys think that Josefina was a good role model? I do think that she was , um, honestly all of her and her siblings, they were all like very polite for the most part. Like even some of her sisters, they can got little bratty at time, but they're also like grieving. So like, you know, I think Josefina was very, she was very polite. She was always trying to keep the peace she wanted to, you know, she just wanted things to be better all around, but like that was a long way to say yes, I do think she was a good role model. More kids should be polite like her.

Heather :

I agree. I, I really liked this because Josefina had a different personality type, which I appreciated seeing a child who is a little bit more inward and internalized and who was struggling sometimes with shyness or confidence. A lot of kids aren't going to fit the like very extroverted, assertive model, you know? And so showing a different personality type in the way that she moves through her world with agency and the way that she impacts the people around her positively. I think that that was really nice. And I thought it gave a really healthy, like depiction of grief as well, which I think is also important. We haven't been big on grieving and the other American girl books, right? Like Marta dies and Kirsten immediately forgets about her. Samantha's parents have died in a tragic boating accident and she's like gallivanting around in the place of their death. And doesn't seem particularly affected by that processing their grief in a pretty explicit way. In a lot of these books, I thought was a really nice thing to see from this series for a change

Ella:

I'm literally dressed as Josefina today. So I feel like, you know, my answer is yes. I definitely feel like as someone who's Hispanic did not have a lot of great books growing up and especially once about characters that were relatively, like you said, reserved and quiet. Uh, and I was a pretty quiet kid. So I really liked how these books focused on her intimate space and how she interacted with it and how that then impacted everything else. So she was definitely a huge role model and I would say continues to be a role model. These books made me. So...

Hannah:

The point you made Heather about her not being the spunky American girl archetype that we've seen before was, was nice. It's nice to see something other than that kind of stereotype that we've read about in the books previous to this. I think, I think she is a good role model.

Hawa:

Yey Josefina good job, go you. [Laughter] Coming up, we'll get an expert's take on an important aspect of this novel that is not often discussed, but first let's pay some bills,

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Heather :

Now let's talk to someone who actually knows something about one of the main topics featured in this book.

Dr. Tey:

I'm Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo. I'm a professor of Spanish at the University of New Mexico. And my main area of interest is women writers in Latin America and United States. My interest in Josefina was children's literature, especially written by Chicanas. And it's important that you see yourself in, in literature. And one of the things that Chicana writers found out early on was that there were no children who were Chicanas in any of the children's literatures. And so they started writing their own stories. So when this project came on, they called me and asked me if I would be interested in participating. And of course I said, yes, because American Girls dolls are an important part of culture in children's literature. In the United States, they were going to research the culture and they were going to try and be as culturally appropriate as possible.

Heather :

What were you tasked with and how did you accomplish your work as a team?

Dr. Tey:

Well, I mean, we were supposed to serve as experts, sort of bringing our own knowledge of New Mexican culture to the team. And , um , we would meet regularly and discuss things and then they would pass different questions and things in front of us so that we could discuss them. One of the more interesting things my, my husband would laugh because we would receive boxes of things. Like there would be 20 heads, you know, doll heads and they would have different skin tints on them to see, what, what might be appropriate

Heather :

With the Josefina stories I did think it was interesting that the author on the English books is not a Latina author.

Dr. Tey:

No

Heather:

did the committee have any input into who was tasked with writing the books or was that chosen by the company?

Dr. Tey:

No that was chosen by the company, but she turned out to be very culturally sensitive and , uh, she was very willing to listen and to adjust. And , uh, yeah, so she was a good choice. Of course I would have preferred for her to be a Latino author, but we actually didn't come in at the very, very beginning of the project we came in when the project had already been chosen

Heather :

With the books there were Spanish terms mixed into the text and the English versions, and there were full Spanish translations of the Josefina stories. Um , was that something that the committee suggested or how was that choice made and why was it important to the Josefina series?

Dr. Tey:

Well, the business about language is really quite complicated because , uh, in my memory , uh, at first they had chosen someone from Spain to do the, the language Spanish and Spain is very different from what would have been spoken in the colonial period. And certainly from what's spoken in New Mexico now. And so that was a big issue is to make sure that the terms were culturally and specifically set. But I think that the way it turned out has been very good in my memory.

Heather :

I also wanted to ask you what your goals were in participating on the advisory committee for Josefina.

Dr. Tey:

Well, I wanted to make sure that she was represented in a culturally appropriate way. And I also had several goals. I really insisted that she know how to read, because one of the stereotypes about, about Spanish and about the Spanish in New Mexico is that they're not educated. They don't know how to read, you know? And so I really insisted on that, that she should learn how to read. And so they wove that into the story , uh , by having her aunt teach her how to read. So that was one of my goals. And the other goal was that , uh, she should be able to play the piano. So the whole piano business was sort of my input in there. And then it was, well, she wouldn't have had a piano. They wouldn't have had a piano in colonial New Mexico. And I said, you know, you would be surprised they had all kinds of interesting things that they brought up, the Chihuahua trail from Mexico City. And so there's that whole thing about how the aunt has her piano brought in from Mexico and it's , uh, you know, it's, it's the big thing in the, in the town and then Josefina then will eventually learn how to play the piano.

Heather:

We commented on that when we were discussing the books. So that's fascinating to know that you were part of why that became such a critical part of the story for her.

Dr. Tey:

Well music has always been very important in Spanish communities. And one of the things that would bring the communities together would be that whenever there was an occasion, they would have dances. And so they were called fandangos. And so the whole community, whenever anybody knew that there was going to be music, the whole community would come in their wagons and they would come from a long way away to attend these events because they, one of the few events in isolated communities where you could get together with your neighbors.

Heather :

I think that, and the , um, focus on religious events, bringing the community together.

Dr. Tey:

Right

Heather:

felt very true to well, to my lived experiences. Well, I mean, we talked about Las Posadas and I remember doing that when I was a girl and I wanted to be Maria so much, but I never was, but it is.

Dr. Tey:

That's all right

Heather:

that's all right. Um, it was still wonderful and I think it felt, it felt so current, even though it was historical. And so that , um, that through line of cultural traditions, really, really was very effective.

Dr. Tey:

Right

Heather:

for many of us.

Dr. Tey:

So one of the big issues in, in that we kind of treated very carefully was the death of Josefina's mother because for young children, you know, that's kind of a deva-. I mean, it is for everyone, but it was a kind of a devastating event. And we had quite a few talks about how children would react to the fact that her mother died. There was this sense that, you know, mothers do die. And for those children whose mothers had died, at least it would represent this experience and how the family dealt with it. And then also who was the support for Josefina when her mother died. And it's very , uh , very lucky that we have Tia Dolores. Tia Dolores there. And of course her name is very appropriate, right.

Heather:

The experience of grief in the books and how it was depicted and how they healed together and supported each other as a family seemed really different to the other American Girl books. Um, and the other series we've read, I did also want to ask you about your , um, feelings about historical fiction for children as an educational resource. Do you think that there's much to be learned through fictional writing and , uh, how do you view its importance for children in learning about themselves and other cultures?

Dr. Tey:

I mean Josefina books were, have been very important because it's such a widespread phenomena in the United States, those books, and they've been so popular for children, but there are a, you know, a series of other Chicano writers who are probably not as well known who also write historical fiction. And one of the things that I think about is Pat Mora's book about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, the Mexican nun, who, you know, was this great intellectual. And so she's taken sort of Sor Juana's life and put it into , uh , a children's book with illustrations. So I do think historical fiction is vitally important and , um, children like historical fiction, you know, especially if there's someone there that resembles them.

Heather :

Well, I wanted to thank you so much for being a guest with us and talking to us today. But additionally, just to thank you for being a part of, of Josefina and these books coming into being, because like I said, they were very impactful and continue to be very impactful and meaningful for so many girls.

Dr. Tey:

Well, I'm, I'm really happy that that that is, and I'm, I'm really excited about your project because I think it's , um , I think that the Pleasant Company was very , um, careful to make sure that everything was as, as historically, correct, and as culturally correct as it could be. And , uh, I think, and I commend them for that. And I'm really happy to see that that legacy is being carried on.

Ella:

Cooking and eating played an important role in family bonding and village celebrations. We were wondering what food best captures Josefina spirit, we'll figure that out now with the help of a handy Buzzfeed quiz,

Heather:

If you were a Mexican dish, which one would you be? And this quiz is by Mireya González and it's on Buzzfeed, of course. So we're answering as Josefina. So first question, the world is ending and you can only save one of these, which do you pick? Our options are pico de gallo, salsa verde, salsa roja, guacamole, la salsa de habanero and salsa macha. I would say probably roja the the things that we hear about on their farm.

Ella:

I was going to say, I feel like she wouldn't have access to most of

Heather:

Yeah, some I would be like, I don't think she would have guacamole at all, because I don't think avocados would grow particularly well right there.

Hannah:

Didn't they bring something, some sort of red chili.

Heather :

Um, they did, they took it for the stew for Senora Sanchez. That's a good point though. In New Mexico, like lots of things are, are green chili based too. So I would go with one of the salsas. I personally not associate like salsa Verde, but I prefer it as well. So let's go with that. I think that sounds good. Which of these common ingredients in Mexican cuisine is your favorite beans, corn cheese, chocolate limes, avocado . I feel like that's an easy one because they talk so much about the chocolate and the first book. Yes. I agree. You can only choose one word to describe yourself. Which one do you choose? So does host Savina think she is sophisticated, popular, fancy, friendly, fun, or honest? Host . Safina

Speaker 4:

Might describe herself as

Speaker 3:

Honest. I would tell you they're honest or friendly.

Speaker 4:

I was torn between the two. I think I leaned more towards honest, just because she's a polite person, but we don't really see her much with friends necessarily, but we know that she doesn't really ever lie, but that doesn't mean that could have been a reach .

Speaker 3:

I actually, that's a really good point. I agree. Honest. Let's go with honest. Well, that's your favorite Mexican candy blanket , which is like a peanut brittle nut, brittle Kolkata , which is coconut MCAT on or a cheat boss . [inaudible] or stuffed limes. What are stuffed limes? I mean, are they what they sound like? Those are unfamiliar to me in the picture. It looks like they are just literally limes stuffed with maybe coconut, coconut. Yeah. I feel like board Cheetos would be very similar to what Greg get in the shoes. Yeah. That's I think that's the closest to anything that we see her eating. So I agree. What are Cheetos? It is pick up pastry concha. [inaudible] Monia Bezos red banana . It'd be Scott . We don't any of these either, but they do talk about the biscochitos a lot. So like something cookie , like might be good. I don't know, like aura has, are crispy. They look kind of cookie. Like they're the elephant ear things. And they're like flakey paste . Frankie. I've had those. So that might be the closest to like the kinds of cookies they were eating. Cause like a contract , like a bread. I really like in the picture, how they made it flag colored. I've never seen that fancy of a contract before where it's at at like it's a tri-color clincher. It's very pretty. They're the brown ones , the white ones, the yellow ones, the pink ones are usually like 20 cents. So I mean, yeah. A lot of effort went into this particular contract. This is the $2 contracts . Yeah . That's like, high-end concha. You splurge for like the holiday. Um, let's do O'Day Haas then. Okay . Lastly, what type of people do you dislike the most? And by you, we mean host Safina . People who don't laugh at your jokes, liars, people who are not smart. People who hate dancing. People had no sense of fashion or people who say you're not nice. They really love dancing. Like she watches the people dancing multiple times. It's just like ,

Speaker 4:

Would you hate dancing? Like we all love it. So you must be suspect.

Speaker 3:

I , that would be like incredibly rude. Like you're shunning the village by not dancing. I agree. I also don't think she would dislike people for any of these reasons. I don't either. Like, I feel like this should be more like, which of these people confuse you? The

Speaker 4:

People who are

Speaker 3:

Not anyone, not like dancing. So are we going with dancing? Let's go with dance . I wish she goes dancing. All right. Host Safina is a Wahaca , Hakan tamale. Oh, she's a very honest salt of the earth person who just wants to live a quiet life. She doesn't care for being the center of attention, having a lot of money or being a star. The truth is she just wants to have a group of friends who she can trust a family she can rely on. And a partner who likes the simple things in life to this boat, peace quiz, read the books. Clearly nailed it. Valerie trip wrote this. Most she wishes. She wrote this Buzzfeed.

Speaker 4:

She should have included some of these walls . I don't know if the food's might've been relevant to what she was writing, but she could have taken a note, at least from the research that the person who did this question ,

Speaker 3:

Maybe we wish that Morag [inaudible] actually wrote the subpoena. So we'd have more food work then. All

Speaker 4:

Right. Okay. Now I'm hungry. No, I'm kidding.

Speaker 1:

Each episode we ask whether our book passes, the Bechtel test, the Bechtel test asks whether a work features two female characters who talk to each other about something that doesn't involve men or boys. So do these books

Speaker 3:

Pass.

Heather:

Hecking Yeah.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. There's barely any, when I say t here's barely any men i n this book anyway, c ause t hat's not necessarily true, but like they're definitely not talking about them as much, you know? Well, and the

Speaker 3:

Theen don't talk very much either.

:

Yeah [Laughter]. Like pretty much like one word answers most of the time. He's, he's a man of few words. So yeah. It's all girls all the time talking to each other, talking about girls, Peter o' tool shows up with like Tom Bombadil energy [Laughter] but that's it. Yeah. I think it passes with flying colors.

Hawa:

That would pass it. Be this one. Yeah. Yeah. Well that's it for this season of These Books Made Me stay tuned for a special spooky episode. If you think, you know which books haunt us, drop us a tweet. We're @pgcmls on Twitter and #TheseBooksMadeMe. You can also send us your questions at thesebooksmademe@pgcmls.info for historical deep dives and readlikes, check out our blog, which is linked in the episode notes.

Intro
Welcome, Ella/What was our experience reading the books
Meet Josefina
Yuca versus yucca
Josefina Learns a Lesson
Gender Roles
Squashing marriage proposals
Josefina's Surprise
Food
Tia Dolores is impressive
Livestock and goats
Happy Birthday, Josefina
Josefina Saves the Day
Changes for Josefina
Ella's Ephemera
Josefina as a role model
Expert interview with Professor Tey Diana Rebolledo
Buzzfeed quiz time
Bechtel Test
Outro