Book Reviewed by K. Yanna, October 2019e
Emoni Santiago, a half Puerto-Rican half African American senior in high school, has more responsibilities than most kids her age. Since Emoni got pregnant freshman year, her life has been full of difficult choices. She must shoulder her responsibilities with grace for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can go to be free is the kitchen. Emoni adds spices with the direction of her gut - adding a little bit of magic to everything she cooks. As she dreams of becoming a chef after she graduates, she has little time to pursue the impossible. Once Emoni enrolls in a new Culinary Arts elective, she breaks free of her rules as her talent leads her life in a new direction.
With the Fire on High is a book about a young girl’s perseverance, courage, and dedication to what she believes in. Despite her classmates’ ostracism, Emoni is not ashamed of who she is. Throughout the book, Emoni struggles with relationships between herself and Babygirl’s father (whose family will only take Babygirl dressed like a doll), her father (who is in Puerto-Rico and whom she feels has been too absent), and someone she thought would always be there. Because of and despite of these factors, Emoni finds love. That love for cooking, Babygirl, ‘Buela, herself, and possibly a new kid in town is what makes her cooking so magical.