Ana of California: Proof that Blood isn’t the Requirement for Family
Andi Teran’s debut novel Ana of California does a brilliant job of reimagining and modernizing L.M. Montgomery’s classic novel Anne of Green Gables without loosing sight of its original message: family is what you make of it. Ana, a fifteen-year-old orphan with Mexican heritage from L.A. has lost all her family to gang violence. After many unsuccessful placements with foster families she is given the choice to emancipate herself form the state. The only catch: she must live and work on a farm in the quaint town of Hadley with siblings Emmett and Abbie Garber as her guardians. Unlike Anne of Green Gables, Ana’s gender doesn’t prevent her from working on the farm, and in fact, she is expected to work just as hard as any farm hand. Tensions arise between Ana, and the strict, stoic Emmett as well as other residents of Hadley who get into bouts with Ana over misunderstands, ignorance and scandal. However, Ana overcomes most of these issues due to her resolve to create better circumstances for herself and from her peers’ determination to believe in her. The community’s placement of their trust comes to light during the last few scenes where Ana and Cole disappear and they all work together to find them.
In Ana of California there is a role reversal in the sibling who is the first one to show kindness towards Ana and convince their reluctant sibling to let her stay for the season. Ana’s relationship with Abbie continues to develop through the time spent with her out on her farm deliveries throughout town. When Ana gets into a fight with Minerva Shaw, the town busybody, over a misunderstanding regarding “Mexican coke” (Teran, 100) Abbie is flummoxed by their quarrel and Ana’s behaviour. However, instead of scolding her Ana, she sympathies with her and asks her to look at the interaction from Minerva’s perspective. While Ana doesn’t concede right away, Abbie’s conviction that she will do the right thing sets a tone of trust; one that is built out of someone listening to her and one built out of Abbie believing in Ana to make decisions for herself and on her own terms. Even though they become close, their relationship isn’t completely unanimous, and it shows when Ana is accused of peer pressuring drugs on her friend, Rye (297) and Abbie questions whether her faith in Ana was justified. However, when Ana disappears with Cole, Abbie’s reservations disappear in a mix of concern and what has grown into love for her ward.
Ana’s relationship with Rye is slightly less linear than the ones she has with her guardians. While they become fast friends and easily confide in each other, their penchant for trivializing each other’s issues often causes rifts between the pair. Rye confides in Ana that she is gay from the very beginning and explains the harassment she receives at school from her peers. Ana often deals with issues throughout the novel regarding race and ignorance about her culture, and when Rye uses Ana’s past to protect herself from bullying (224) she doesn’t understand why Ana is so upset when it seemed to provide a solution (225). Despite the of conflict regarding their problems and what seems to be competition over who faces the most oppression, it is Rye’s history with Cole and Ana’s budding relationship with him that causes the greatest rift. However, as with the case of any true friendship, these grievances are overcome as trust continues to grow. In their last confrontation after Rye lies about Ana forcing her to do drugs (308), and Ana disappears with Cole (317), Rye’s bitterness disappears when faced with worry for her friend and she confides to her parents the truth (331). Quarrel’s between friends—especially individuals who are facing discrimination due to race and sexuality—are natural; it is how they treat endeavor to mend these issues that show the true merit of their friendship.
The last relationship noteworthy to mention is the one between Emmett and Ana and the slow building respect that grows between the two of them. Even though their relationship the most turbulent, it is also the most straight forward and the one that would leave the greatest impression on Ana. Emmett’s initial reluctance to take her on as a farm hand only fuels Anna to prove herself through her work, which resonates with Emmett as the book continues to progress. As his respect for her is something that has been earned rather than freely give, Ana puts more value on it and out of everyone she grows to care about, it is Emmett she fears disappointing the most. Emmett, despite his determination to see her gone at the end of the season, grows fond of Ana and when she disappears he leads search parties to find her when he feels like the police aren’t doing enough (329).
Ana’s relationships with the people who she grows to care about define who she has grown to be by the end of the novel. Her life previous to coming to Hadley hadn’t easy, and the relationships with her parents, associates of her parents and foster families left little to be desired regarding her faith in people. However, she doesn’t let this colour her interactions with the people she meets in Hadley and despite the hitches that arise, Ana’s creates a family out of her peers as is shown in the end when she decides against emancipation and instead towards adoption.