Title: What Can(t) Wait
Author: Ashley hope Pérez
Concepts: careers, child schooling and work, caring labor, budget constraints, human capital
Review: As a high school senior, Marisa Moreno had some difficult choices to make about what lay ahead. Adding to the complexity of her decision-making process, Marisa carried an enormous workload and conflicting expectations from the adults who mattered most in her life. Not only did she attend school all day and work hard to keep up her grades, Marisa also helped watch her young niece every day after school, prepared meals at home for her family, and she worked as many hours as possible at the local grocery store to help her parents pay the bills.
Her parents placed an extremely high priority on Marisa's contributions to the family, to the point that they showed no interest in her school performance and actively discouraged her from pursuing a college education. Marisa's favorite teacher, however, saw great potential in Marisa's mathematical ability, and she strongly urged Marisa to apply to the University of Texas at Austin to study engineering. Marisa could not even begin to tell Ms. Ford how difficult it was to find time to study, not to mention apply to a school her family could not afford in a city three hours from Houston. Nor could she get through to her parents how much she wanted to embark on her own life and stop taking care of everyone else.
This expertly spun debut novel by Ashley hope Pérez combines a compelling plot with substantive content that is rich in economics ideas and cultural context. The notions of budget constraints, caring labor, and investments in human capital regularly appear as motivating forces in the characters' lives. The focus on a Mexican American family and a predominantly Latino school adds an important dimension to the book and helps it to stand out from other novels about high school angst.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children