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Friday, July 26, 2013

Day of the National Rebellion: Books about Cuba

On this day in 1953, Fidel Castro attacked an army garrison, launching the Cuban Revolution. To mark this day, here are some books about Cuba.

    

Leaving Glorytown: One Boy's Struggle Under Castro by Eduardo F. Calcines. As he grows up in Castro's Cuba, Eduardo gets used to watching what you say, used to hunger, used to his father being gone at labor camp (for daring to apply for an exit visa), used to the jealousy as other families get their visa and his family is still stuck.

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. When the soldiers come to her town, life changes for Lucia and her family. As it gets more and more oppressive, Lucia and her brother are sent, by themselves, to the US, as part of Operation Peter Pan. Now she lives in Nebraska, struggling to fit in, and worrying about her parents and the country she left behind.

Letters to My Mother by Teresa Cardenas, translated from the Spanish by D. Unger. After her mother dies, a nameless girl is sent to live with relatives, where she experiences cruelty and racism for having African blood. To cope, she writes letters to her mother. This is one of the only teen books I know of that was originally published in Cuba and portrays contemporary life.

    

Cuba: My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel. Based on Lockpez's own life, Sonya is a medical student when the revolution hits. She volunteers to join the revolution and treats soldiers at the Bay of Pigs. But, she treats the wrong person and ends up imprisoned and tortured. When she gets out, she joins an artist collective to cling to the revolutionary spirit. Published for adults, older teens will like this one.

The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing by Suzanne Jurmain. Jurmain walks us through the ravages of yellow fever and the steps and experiments the doctors went through to prove that it is, indeed, spread by mosquito. Most of these experiments were done in Cuba.

Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana by Stephanie Elizando Griest. After college, Griest went to Moscow. She spent the next four years traveling throughout various communist countries, including Cuba. Although written for adults, Griest's age during her travels makes this book highly appealing for teens.

    

No YA author writes about Cuba as often as Margarita Engle. I couldn't choose just 1.

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle. The main voice in this verse novel is Daniel, a Jewish teenager from Berlin, whose parents could only afford to get one person out, him. They said they'd meet him in New York, but his ship wasn't allowed to land in New York and ended up in Havanna. Paloma is a Cuban girl who helps the Quakers with the refugees. Her mother ran off to Paris with another man, her father charges huge fees and bribes for entry visas and then sometimes rejects the ship anyway.

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle. This verse novel combines the historical tale of a disgraced landowner turned pirate, who shipwrecked on Cuba's shores during a hurricane, and the Cuban love story of Caucubu, the chieftain's daughter, and Narido, a fisherman.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle. Starting in 1850, when Rosa, a slave girl with healing knowledge, is lent out to the slave hunter and his son, the story follows her, the son (Lieutenant Death), and a complete cast of characters throughout the next 50 years as Cuba fights multiple wars in an attempt to win independence from Spain.

What are your favorite books about Cuba? Any recommendations for books from Cuba?

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