My Brigadista Year

I enjoyed going to ALA so much this year. For one thing, it was close to home. For another, a whole weekend full of like minded book folk is like waking up in a book dystopia. Everywhere people were talking about books; it was heavenly. Despite the hours of waiting in long lines, I came away from the weekend cheerful about the direction of publishing today. Meeting the authors if only for a few moments was so fun. Katherine was exceptionally kind as I gushed a bit about Bridge to Terabithia. I spent a good part of each night quieting my inner voice as I worried I was too excited, awkward, or both with the authors.

On with the review. I read this in one sitting and as historical fiction is one of my favorite genres I enjoyed it. Lora decides to join the Literacy Brigadistas when she is 13, which was an idea of Fidel Castro’s to raise the literacy rate and help the poorer, less educated people understand concepts in his new government. The brigadistas were mostly young girls who volunteered to go to the farms and teach the low-income families how to read. At first, just the women were willing to learn, then the kids and finally the men came around to the idea that learning to read might indeed help them. According to the notes in the back of the book, Cuba raised its literacy rate from 60% to 96% during this time. I hadn’t realized that Castro valued education so much. Things I liked: Hearing the spin that Castro put on the shortages within the country- it was America that was the villain. There are always two sides, and I think it’s good for kids to read books from different points of view through a historical lens of the time.

Things I didn’t like: I have zero context for Cuban history (beyond a cursory knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis), and so it’s hard to know how much of this is fiction. That’s entirely on me though.

My Brigadista Year By Katherine Paterson October 10, 2017

After doing some research, I’m now reading the book Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy to learn more about 1961 Cuba.


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