Cover image for With the fire on high
With the fire on high
Physical Description:
6 sound discs (7 hr., 30 min.) : digital, 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact disc.

In container (17 cm.).

Title from container.
Reading Level:
12 years and up
Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago's life has been about making the tough decisions--doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it's not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.


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From the New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award longlist title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright.

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago's life has been about making the tough decisions--doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it's not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

Author Notes

Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican-American poet and author, born and raised in New York City. She is a graduate of The George Washington University with a BA in Performing Arts and the University of Maryland with a MFA in Creative Writing. Her poetry has appeared in Cosmopolitan, The Huffington Post and Teen Vogue. Her work includes Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths, The Poet X, and With the Fire on High. She received several awards for her book The Poet X, a 2018 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, the Michael L Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature, the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children's Literature, and the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this stunning sophomore novel from National Book Award and Printz winner Acevedo (The Poet X), Afro-Puerto Rican and African-American Emoni Santiago, a high school senior, lives in Philadelphia with her two-year-old daughter, Emma-nicknamed Babygirl-and paternal grandmother, 'Buela. A talented cook, Emoni balances school, work at a local burger joint, and motherhood-including shared custody with her ex-boyfriend, Tyrone-with moments in the kitchen, where her "magical hands" create dishes that allow the eater to access deep, surprising memories. But she's not sure what to do with her passion, or after high school, until enrolling in a culinary arts elective helps her to hone her innate cooking skills in the classroom and during a hard-won weeklong apprenticeship in Spain. As she gains practice at leadership and fund-raising, she also cautiously develops a budding relationship with new student Malachi, a boy who respects Emoni's boundaries. Acevedo expertly develops Emoni's close female relationships, which are often conveyed through the sharing of food and recipes, and which shape and buoy Emoni's sense of her own direction and strength. With evocative, rhythmic prose and realistically rendered relationships and tensions, Acevedo's unvarnished depiction of young adulthood is at once universal and intensely specific. Ages 13-up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

High school senior Emoni Santiago, whose Puerto Rican side is as Black as [her] Black American side, is many thingsan aspiring chef, a proud North Philly native, a reserved student who keeps to herself, a teenage single parent. Emoni and her two-year-old daughter live with Emonis abuela, as Emonis mother is dead and her father lives in Puerto Rico. Emonis life is one of difficult choices, and she is not sure she will be able to both pursue her cooking dreams and support her daughter. But as seniors begin choosing electives, Emoni signs up for a culinary arts class that culminates in a trip to Spainand she begins to see a path forward if only she dares follow it. In this prose novel (following her acclaimed verse novel The Poet X, rev. 3/18), Acevedo continues to create beautifully realized characters with complex lives (I shake my head at all the separate feelings inside me; sometimes I feel like a bigger mess than Babygirls scattered toys), and her portrait of a young mother is a story too infrequently taken up in YA. But readers of all sorts will find something to connect with in this honest and ultimately hopeful storyand aspiring chefs like Emoni can follow a few actual recipes (such as When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Verbena Tembleque). christina l. dobbs (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Acevedo has done it again: the multi-award-winning author of The Poet X (2018) here delivers perfection, from the cover art featuring a young Afro-Latina woman looking out, her curls picked up in a scarf, and kitchen staples framing her face, to Acevedo's keen, stirring prose that reads like poetry and demands to be read slowly. In a distinct, perceptive, and vulnerable first-person narrative, Emoni, a young single mom being raised by her grandmother while raising her own daughter, relates the story of her last year of high school in vignettes and short chapters, trading off between sharing bits of the story and her musings about her life and her future. Emoni has a gift for cooking, and her food, like magic, conjures emotions in people she shares it with. Her teachers, friends, and family are all ready to support her when the subject of culinary arts schooling comes up, but the one Emoni needs to learn to trust is herself. Acevedo compassionately challenges her readers with a wide variety of topics, including cultural and personal identity and the needs and desires of older women, something that is so often forgotten. Fittingly, for a book so deeply about food, she also includes Emoni's recipes. This sophomore novel is simply stunning. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Acevedo's debut won a National Book Award and the Printz Award and her many fans will be salivating for this superb follow-up.--Kristina Pino Copyright 2019 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

Elizabeth Acevedo follows up The Poet X' with the story of a teenage mom whos also an aspiring chef. FEW CONTEMPORARY COMING-OF-AGE stories compare to the one that unfolds around Xiomara Batiste, the defiant, emerging writer at the center of Elizabeth Acevedo's best-selling, National Book Award-winning debut, "The Poet X," a novel in verse about a rebellious girl we root for as she carves a path away from her family's religious stoicism and toward her own artistic future. With her yearning and aspiration, Xiomara is a distinctly Latina narrator who nonetheless speaks in the universal voice of a tender young spirit's unfolding. Xiomara is like the more subdued fictive kin of Emoni Santiago, the self-possessed heroine of Acevedo's second novel, with THE FIRE ON HIGH (HarperTeen, 400 pp., $17.99; ages 13 and up). Atalented aspiring chef and unapologetic teenage mother, Emoni is as stubbornly committed to following her dreams as Xiomara is, but she cares less about other people's perceptions. Anchored by her baby girl, Emma, and her grandmother Gloria (whom she calls 'Buela), Emoni is sure of everything except whom she can trust as she chases her dream of running her own kitchen. The nomenclature theme nods to Emoni's maturity and integrity, and her attention to detail. She knows her own name is a signifier of her Afro-Latinx identity; "Emma," on the other hand, "is the kind of name that didn't tell you too much before you met her, the way mine does," Emoni tells us. "Because nobody ever met a white girl named Emoni, and as soon as they see my name on a resumé or college application they think they know exactly what kind of girl they getting." What a wrong assumption. "Information ain't free, so my daughter's name wasn't going to tell anybody any information they didn't earn." This passage could also describe the shape and pace of the book, written in sharp, nimble prose instead of verse. Acevedo shows us Emoni's world rather than telling us what to think about it, with a few slight exceptions. The narrative of "With the Fire on High" is a common, shared one - the story of a multifaceted, brilliant brown woman who will not be victimized by other people's projections of shame on black and brown young mothers - but Acevedo elevates it in a way that feels new. You understand that certain moments have to be underlined. Emoni does this in tiny doses, though, offering us her big heart alongside her willfulness and talent. Her quest becomes a question of who she can allow herself and others around her to become in spite of a complicated past. This includes her queer best friend, Angelica; Emma's dad, Tyrone - who is responsibly present for co-parenting, unlike the absent-dad stereotype; and even 'Buela, with her subtle, steady love. Emoni's father, Julio, is far away, but he is not absent, either; he is reeling still from the death of Emoni's mother, who was also creative and a cook. Acevedo has pulled off a kind of alchemy of emotions and magic reminiscent of Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate," if that novel were set in current-day Philadelphia and remixed with references to Cardi B. and Rihanna. Maladii, a handsome new student in Emoni's culinary arts class, who persistently (and respectfully) pursues Emoni, is a deft conduit for her softening and blooming into young love. Emoni's story is a gift especially to readers looking for a counternarr ative to young mothers of color positioned as tragic products of family dysfunction. Some 20 years ago, that notion was popularized in Sapphire's " Push," and it has fermented in popular culture. While Emoni and her family have experienced pain, they are defined by resilience and perseverance. With its judicious depth and brilliant blazes of writing that simmer, then nourish, "With the Fire on High" is literary soul food. JOSHUNDA SANDERS teaches in the writing program at the New School. She is the author of the children's book "I Can Write the World."

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-The acclaimed author follows up her celebrated The Poet X with a love letter to food and a tribute to young, single mothers. Emoni Santiago is an Afro-Latinx high school senior in Philly who dreams up the most delectable concoctions, always mixing up tastes from her two cultures with a spice of her own. The news of a culinary arts course with a possible trip to Spain grabs her interest, but how will she juggle school, work, and taking care of her daughter? The young woman is barely balancing everything on her plate with the help of her talented best friend Angelica, 'Buela (her intractable grandmother), and occasional visits from her activist father (who moved to Puerto Rico after her mother's death). Acevedo populates her first prose novel with complex and unforgettable characters and turns the stereotype of "teen mom" on its head. Emoni has to deal with daycare drop-offs, custody issues, and making ends meet alongside college applications, budding romances, and the high school rumor mill. Realistic dialogue and vulnerable interior monologues about sex, loss, and insecurities will ring true with all adolescents. The author expertly weaves Spanglish, toddler mom worries, and culinary lingo and aptly evokes the Philly and Spain settings, immersing readers in Emoni's world. The novel's three parts are introduced by recipes created and perfected by the protagonist, and hints of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate will leave teens hungry for more. VERDICT Acevedo's second serving offers a much-needed nuanced exploration of teen parenting that belongs on all shelves.-Shelley M. Diaz, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Seventeen-year-old Afro-Boricua Emoni Santiago hones her gift for cooking and makes important decisions about her future.Emoni's 'Buela says she's had a gift for cooking since she was small. Now Emoni has her own toddler, Emma ("The kind of name that doesn't tell you too much before you meet her, the way mine does"), nicknamed Babygirl. Emoni's first day of senior year at her Philadelphia high school is also Babygirl's first day of day care, leaving Emoni saddened about missing parts of her life. Emoni's a classic example of the school system's failure to harness many students' creativity and interests, but thankfully she discovers and enrolls in a new class called "Culinary Arts: Spain Immersion." Though the teacher, Chef Ayden, respects her, he's strict, and Emoni nearly drops the class, but eventually she gathers the ingredientsconnections and skillsshe'll need for success. A romance that doesn't fit the usual mold and a class trip to Spain round out this flavorful tale. Emoni occasionally breaks from first-person narration to address readers directly, and her voice and story feel fresh and contemporary. Diversity in representation is primarily racial and ethnic; however, Emoni's best friend Angelica is a lesbian. The short, precise prose chapters will draw in even reluctant readers, and the inclusion of several recipes adds to the appeal. Current pop-culture references and cultural relevance will attract both window and mirror readers. Sabroso. (Fiction. 14-adult) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.