He's Mexican, because his family is Mexican, but he's not really Mexican. His skin is dark like is grandma's sweet coffee, but his insides are as pale as the cream she mixes in.
Mexican WhiteBoy
By Matt de la Peña
Sonny Sanders
Dr. Tonya Perry
4 March 2020

Identity Conflict and Control in Mexican
Peña, Matt de la. Mexican White Boy. Delacorte Press, 2008.

       Mexican WhiteBoy is a book about a summer in the life of Danny Lopez. Danny is a sixteen-year-old boy from San Diego, California. His father is from Mexico while his mother is a blue-eyed, blond-haired white American woman. As the story begins, we are told that when Danny was young his father let for Mexico. Danny decides to spend the summer in National City with his father’s family. Danny feels out of place because his skin is too light. Only when he gets into a neighborhood homerun derby does he begin to fit in. But like much of his life, this is short-lived before spiraling out of his control. The major theme of the book is one of identity but also of control which displays itself in his “smarts” being joked at by family, his mental letters to his father, his mentioning of his skin color and habit that Danny has of digging his fingers into his arms. The story is one of an unexpected friendship and finding meaning and a place in the world.

       As the story begins, we find Danny in identity confusion. In discussing identity confusion Stringer states that youths in this state are “aimless, bitter, or apathetic (Stringer, Sharon A. Conflict and Connection: The Psychology of Young Adult Literature. NH, 2008.). As the book begins, we see the bitterness in Danny. Danny is caught between two worlds and does not believe that he belongs in either. When he reflects on his situation as he visits with his cousin, Sofia, he realizes that back home at his private school he is too dark but in National City he is too light (Pena 2). In Danny’s mind, he would rather be more Mexican. Throughout the book, Danny creates mental letters to his father about the things that are happing in his life. In one of these Danny relates how his dad left because he was “sick of living in a city with so many white people, with a white wife, with two kids who were half white” and “You wanted to be around more Mexicans. Your real family” (Pena 27-28). In this same letter, Danny tells his dad that he himself has become stronger and darker.

       Danny does not feel as if he is really a Mexican. In the book, it states that “he is Mexican because his family is Mexican” but that he is not truly a Mexican (Pena 90). Even when his family is joking and he seems to be one of them he feels out of place, “seemingly on the inside of la familia de Lopez, but really on the outside” (Pena 48). Danny’s unlikely friend, Uno, parallels Danny in this identity crisis and it is their journey of discovery while playing catch that moves Danny towards identity achievement. Uno’s belief in Danny’s ability, not only in baseball but to escape the poverty of his people and to be something more, is a powerful engine for Danny’s growth.

       Control is another theme which runs through the book. Danny feels out of control much of the time. This relates to his identity confusion and affects his relationships with his mother, his father’s family, his schoolmates and his ability to play baseball. Danny has a powerful arm with a fastball that should have him starting in high school with scouts clambering for his talents, but he isn’t on the team. Whenever Danny pitches to an actual batter he has no control. When Danny finds himself in situations where he loses control or feels it slipping away, he digs his fingernails into his arm. Danny also uses idealism as a way to try to gain control. Stringer states that adolescence who are coming of age have the ability to blend idealism with expectations that are seated in reality (Stringer 46). Danny begins the book without the ability to do this. In his reality he sees the bad to his situation. In the mental letters that Danny writes to his father, he embellishes the events in his life. In these, he bends the truth so that he is always the hero. He tells of a young lady that he has met but the name of Liberty but in these mental letters, he calls her his girlfriend and brags about their great relationship even though they have not met and of being on a traveling baseball team with Uno.
       Danny discovers that when he lets everything go and clears his mind, he can find within himself the ability to pitch to even the best batters. Uno’s faith in Danny helps push him to a place where he is comfortable with who he is as a person. Danny discovers that not only does he love baseball, but a pitcher is who he really is and that is what he does defines him.

Additional books by Matt de la Peña
Ball Don't Lie
Mexican WhiteBoy
We Were Here
I Will Save You
A Nation's Hope-The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
Infinity Ring: Curse of the Ancients   
Infinity Ring: Eternity                          
The Living                  
The Hunted                            
Superman: Dawnbreaker