Mango for a Teacher bueno, bonito y barato

Okay, I don’t actually know much Spanish. I took an eight-week adult ed class some time in my late twenties, and all I remember is how to say “My necktie is cheap!”

But the beauty of reading Deborah Frisch’s memoir A Mango for the Teacher is that you don’t have to know Spanish, yet you feel like you’re a native of Cancun when you’re reading it.

In the prologue of , she describes the school that she founded in Cancun:

“The gossip in Cancun had it that Escuela Xicalango was bueno, bonito y barato, good, good-looking and cheap.”

And these same words are good descriptors for the book itself—it’s a good read and well-written (bueno), it’s set in beautiful coastal Mexico before the touristas invaded (bonito), and at $3.99, it’s a steal (barato) available through Smashwords and Amazon.com.

Written in short, easy-to-digest chapters, it’s actually perfect beach reading. Or for someone like me, it’s a perfect book to have on my bedside table so I can read a few chapters each night and pretend I’m in Cancun. Although it’s definitely entertaining, it’s not of the fluff variety. Through the laughter and adventures, it’s a very real account of the situations that present themselves to a young New Yorker finding her way in a foreign country. And while she builds a school from nothing and navigates the frustrating bureaucracy of the Mexican government, she forges strong friendships, embraces a new culture, and finds (and loses) love.

I loved it when I realized that the Arturo introduced in the later part of the book is named for the Arturo at the beginning of the book and is also Arturo the talented illustrator of the book and the son of the author! For me—someone who is always looking for connections and patterns—it made for a very satisfying reading experience.

And the best part for me is that I know the author. Deb is in one of my writing critique groups and we’re in the California Writers Club together. (And just because I love all those funny little connections, I have to also mention that her husband was my daughter’s first pediatrician.)

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