Yolanda Nava's Mexican-born mother would carefully pick over the pinto beans she used to make frijoles de la olla, beans from a clay pot, ensuring perfection each time she created the signature dish. Nava says that character, like cooking, is all in the frijoles: "the virtuous life is the product of constantly weeding out flaws and weaknesses, and choosing right over wrong."

Nava's noble collection of stories, dichos (sayings), myths, memories and poems has a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" quality to it, but with a much spicier seasoning. She has sensibly organized the short entries around various values: responsibility, respect, hard work, loyalty, faith, honesty, courage, humility, temperance, prudence, justice, fortitude, chastity and charity. Many of the contributors are famous, such as activist César Chavez, UNIVISION anchor Maria Elena Salinas and "Chicago Hope" director Jesus Treviño, while others are ordinary folks reflecting on life and God. Most are present or former Catholics, though some religious diversity exists. Healer-author Don Miguel Ruiz draws upon Toltec universalism by noting that "everything is a manifestation of God" and that every person is Divine.

Many of the stories of perseverance and character are touching, such as actor Edward James Olmos's recollections about graduating from high school at the same time as his mother, who had gone back to complete her education. Nava's scrumptious collection of Latino sagacity is missing only the recetas--the recipes.

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