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The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture. In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early womenâ s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.
A Cuban-American farm wife returns to Cuba after a 30-year absence in search of family and self-identity, and discovers the horrible reality of her family's suffering. Engle chronicles the brutal relocation of innocent peasants to prison-cities known throughout Cuba as "Captive Towns", where descendants of those imprisoned during the early 1960s remain incarcerated today. Scenes of the narrator's travels in Cuba as she visits relatives, both dissident and Communist, are juxtaposed with an account of the imprisonment of the narrator's great uncle Gabriel, once a Castro supporter.
During the summer of 1992, I was in the home of relatives in Cuba when suddenly, secretly, after a brief visit, two distant cousins "se tiraron al mar." They "threw themselves into the sea" on a makeshift raft, at a time when such flights to freedom were strictly prohibited. I waited, along with many other relatives, including the two balseros' parents and wives, for news of a safe arrival in Key West. In public, we had to pretend nothing had happened. In private, there was the recurrent agony of waiting for the daily Radio Martí broadcast listing the names of balseros who'd survived their ordeal at sea. I returned to the U.S., still waiting. Later, news finally arrived: My cousins had been arrested by a Cuban patrol boat before reaching international waters. During our excruciating vigil, the balseros were already prisoners at secret police headquarters in La Víbora, but as punishment for the entire family, no one had been informed. Instead, we were allowed to imagine the worst: sharks, storms, waves, the depths ...Skywriting is the flight my imagination took while waiting
It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not free. People have been rounded up in re-concentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps.
Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away his ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba. As the tropical island begins to work its magic on him, the young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away ...
Fefa struggles with words. She has word blindness, or dyslexia, and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping and hopping away like bullfrogs. How will she ever understand them? But her mother has an idea. She gives Fefa a blank book filled with clean white pages. "Think of it as a garden," she says. Soon Fefa starts to sprinkle words across the pages of her wild book. She lets her words sprout like seedlings, shaky at first, then growing stronger and surer with each new day. And when her family is threatened, it is what Fefa has learned from her wild book that saves them.