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Dear Mr. Paulsen,
I read your book The Crossing. I never though a book would make a difference in my life, but your book did. It helped me understand many things.
Mexico is right across the border from the town I live in. About once a month my family and I go to Matamoros. We normally go to La Plaza, buy elotes or just drive around. As we cross the bridge to come back to America, I see people trying to sell chicles, plaster eagles, and paletas. A lot of ladies are out in the scorching sun with their babies and young children, trying to sell things to provide for the families. As I'm in my air-conditioned car, outside it's 100 degrees. I see the people sweating and I wonder how many chicles they have to sell to buy food, forget about the cute outfits at the mall. As soon as we got to the American side, I'd forget all about the unfortunate people begging and selling on the Mexican side. I cannot imagine living one day in that lifestyle; I'm so used to my life right now.
When I was four-years-old, my grandpa told me that when he was young, he crossed form Mexico to the United States. He is originally from San Luis, Potosi. I didn't understand why he did that, what it was he was trying to get away from. Your story showed me how life can be in Mexico, and why a lot of people like my grandpa want to get away from it. I thought their life was normal like mine, yet now I know our lives are so different. Mexicans don't have free schools, so not many get an education. Some fight for money tourists throw off the bridge. They try not to get caught by the Coyotes, who'll steal the little money they have. Now I understand the troubled life my grandpa escaped.
That boy, Manuel, was my grandpa forty years ago. My grandpa took the same risks. And if he hadn't, I wouldn’t be living life like I am today. I would probably be on the streets begging for money, or selling chicles, battling hunger. I wouldn’t have the luxuries that I have now or little things in life that I'd always taken for granted. I wouldn't be coming to a free school. I wouldn't get free lunch. I would have nothing that I have today.
After reading The Crossing, I learned to appreciate everything I have. Electricity, decent clothes, a car, money, food, a home are all luxuries that I no longer want to waste. There are a lot of people who would love to have one percent of the life I have now. I never thanked my grandpa. This letter is a thank you, to you for opening my eyes, and to my grandpa for the risks he took, and the sacrifices he made.
© The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. (Used by permission.)