How can I summarize Junot Diaz's "The Dreamer"?

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jacquelineledoux eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Junot Diaz's essay The Dreamer is about Diaz's mother's desire to get an education as a young girl.
 
Diaz uses the first part of the essay to describe his mother. He mentions that she now lives in a nice house in New Jersey and enjoys feeding the squirrels in her backyard. In contrast to that, though, he also describes the way she grew up poor and even refers to her as "the kind of Dominican girl who was destined never to get off the mountain or out of the campo" (Diaz). 
 
He then recounts the way his grandmother expected his mother to work on the family's farm indefinitely unless, of course, she got married. When caring for the field hands, though, his mother realized that she wanted to become a nurse. However, she had no education and her mother did not support the idea of her obtaining one. 
 
That said, a few months later, Trujillo, the country's dictator at the time, mandated that all children under 15 be educated. If parents didn't obey the law, they could face imprisonment, but Diaz's grandmother didn't seem to care. So, in a last ditch effort, Diaz's mother drank water from a puddle in order to make herself sick.
 
Her family was planning on moving further up into the hills for seasonal work and eventually they decided they weren't going to wait for her to get better, so they left without her. As soon as her family left, Diaz's mother ran to the schoolhouse and reported her own mother. At one point, the grandmother tried to take the girl out of school and back into the hills but the police put her in handcuffs and Diaz's mother remained free to get her education. 
 
Diaz ends the essay informing the readers that his mother was never actually able to become a nurse because they immigrated to the United States and she was never able to learn English, despite trying very hard.
 
However, he then states that he currently works as a professional writer and attributes all of his success to her. He says he believes that, "who I am as an artist, everything that I've ever written, was possible because a seven-year-old girl up in the hills of Azua knelt before a puddle, found courage in herself and drank" (Diaz).
 
He goes on to conclude the essay, saying that he thinks of his mother's courage whenever he needs inspiration or faces hardship in his art. 

Further Reading:
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Diaz's essay is about his mother's quest for an education while she was growing up in the Dominican Republic. She desperately wanted to be a nurse in the capital city. Her own mother did not want her to be educated and instead thought Diaz's mother should stay on the family farm and work like a mule. Trujillo, then the dictatorial leader of the country, passed a law stating that all children under age 15 had to attend school. Still, Diaz's mother's family planned to have her move up the mountain to work harvesting coffee. To enable herself to stay in the village, Diaz's mother drank dirty water from a puddle and reported her mother to the authorities. As a result, Diaz's mother attended school, and when her mother returned and tried to drag her up the hill, the police handcuffed her. Diaz's mother was able to attend school, even though her mother beat her mercilessly.

Diaz's mother never became a nurse because immigration interfered with her plans. She tried but could never master English. However, Diaz turned his energies to reading and writing, and he credits her influence with giving him the drive to become educated. When he is stalled in his writing, he thinks about his mother's courage in drinking dirty water as a young girl.

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