My Brigadista Year
My Brigadista Year
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Annotation: A young Cuban teenager who volunteers for Fidel Castro's national literacy campaign that taught those throughout the impoverished countryside to read. Includes timeline of Cuban history.
Catalog Number: #167923
Format: Publisher's Hardcover (Large Print)
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 323 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-432-84930-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-432-84930-6
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 23 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Fidel Castro's rise to power elicited many different reactions from Cubans e, for example, Christina Diaz Gonzalez's The Red Umbrella (2010). Paterson's latest focuses on how Castro implemented a successful national literacy campaign. Havana resident Lora, an amazing reader, volunteers to be a teacher in the mountains of Cuba for one year. Lora has never been away from home before, and must leave behind all her city comforts to embark on a journey that will change her life. Readers interested in Cuba will find a wealth of information here; both a time line and political background are supplied between pages. While Lora's adventure is based on a true story, the weakness of the novel lies in the presentation of danger: the looming threat that Lora could be killed by the enemy at any time does not quite resonate. Readers will find that the strength of the book lies not in Lora's adventures but in the critical question she asks: Which country is truly perfect? A fascinating, possibly controversial portrayal of a turbulent time in history.
Kirkus Reviews
Paterson offers a coming-of-age tale about a girl stepping up to be part of something greater than herself in post-revolution Cuba. It's 1961 in Havana, and 13-year-old Lora, inspired by the revolutionary sense of freedom in the air and her dreams of pushing past the expectations of gender and circumstance placed on her, has decided she wants to be part of Premier Fidel Castro's campaign to make Cuba a literate nation in one year. Soon she finds herself in the countryside with the Conrado Benitez Brigade, teaching and working alongside her campesino host family. But the specter of war and unrest is everywhere, as is the tension between resisting and embracing the coming social change. Readers should not expect an action-packed tale, but the writing is straightforward and moves at a swift pace. Paterson offers a glimpse of the daily life of a brigadista, redressing the cursory associations many have about Castro's Cuba. Hers is a positive study of an amazing moment in history that nonetheless acknowledges the darker political machinations at play. An unnecessary epilogue threatens to undo the nuance of the novel, and the italicized Spanish is distracting, but the themes of literacy, freedom, and community stay strong. Educational and inspiring. (author's note, timeline) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
Publishers Weekly
Two-time Newbery Medalist Paterson turns her attention to 1961 Cuba in the story of 13-year-old Lora Llera, who volunteers to become part of Fidel Castro-s literacy campaign-to her parents- dismay. She and hundreds of other volunteers of all ages spend months living with farmers in the countryside, working alongside them during the day and teaching them to read and write at night. (Castro intended to have a fully literate population within a year-s time, and the brigadistas were an important part of that plan.) Through Lora-s naïve but openhearted perspective, Paterson weaves in details about Cuban history and the events that led to the overthrow of the Batista regime and the rise of Communism, though she skirts many of the political hot-button issues that surround Castro-s rule. An author-s note and timeline fill in additional details about Cuba-s past, but Paterson-s story is without political agenda, focusing instead on an improbable (and successful) literacy campaign and how it dramatically expands the world of one sheltered but determined girl. Ages 10-14. Agent: Allison Cohen, Gersh Agency. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 58Lora Díaz Llera, 13, lives with her family in Havana, Cuba. In 1961, Fidel Castro creates the Campaña Nacional de Alfabetización en Cuba, a governmental initiative designed to abolish illiteracy in the country. Lora, having been taught to help others, wants to volunteer for Premier Castro's literacy brigadistas, who are tasked with going out into the countryside to teach others how to read and write. Despite her family being reluctant for her to take part in this, Lora soon leaves for training and journeys to the countryside to take up residency with a family: Luis, Veronica, and their three small children. Lora finds deep satisfaction in teaching, but the atmosphere is intense. Not only do the men generally resist her effortsfinding it hard to be educated by a young girlbut there is the ever-present threat of attack from members of the resistance. The story is told solely from Lora's perspective; she views her brigadista work as a calling and a way to give back to those less fortunate than herself, despite her own humble beginnings. Filled with moments of racism, prejudice, sexism, and ageism, the issues and themes explored will raise questions, hopefully spark further research into Cuban history, and fuel discussion. VERDICT Paterson offers a moving look at an episode in Cuban history. Consider for fans of historical fiction.Stephanie Charlefour, formerly at Wixom Public Library, MI
Voice of Youth Advocates
Paterson’s historical fiction is based on a true story. In 1961, against her parents’ wishes, thirteen-year-old, Havana-bred Lora joins Fidel Castro’s national army of volunteer teachers bringing literacy to Cuba. As a “brigadista,” she is assigned to a poor, two-room, rural home where she joins in the family’s work and leisure. Lora bonds with the family, draws a neighboring family into her classes, and, with the support of fellow volunteers, achieves her objectives. Lora faces Batista bandits, wild animals, and self-doubt. Her success leads to her inclusion in a national celebration that fuels a revolution. For historical context, Paterson briefly incorporates the significant issues facing Castro’s Cuba at the time, including Batista corruption, American plane attacks, the Bay of Pigs, and the initial Cuban embrace of Communism. Paterson’s optimism contrasts with Eduardo F. Calcines’s nonfiction account, Leaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle under Castro (Macmillan, 2009), but Paterson focuses less on Cuba’s political struggles, and more on how one momentous time in history provided the framework for one girl’s life-changing adventure. Until the epilogue, which acknowledges that Cuba is not perfect, Lora’s personal coming-of-age journey is free from political overtones as she discovers her purpose with the support of her assigned family and fellow teachers. The author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history provide useful references for readers. Lora will engage tween and teen readers who may seek out Lora’s inspiration, the work of Josè Martí, Versos Sencillos/Simple Verses (Arte Público Press, 1997).—Lucy Schall.
Word Count: 30,179
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 5.0 / quiz: 192449 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 830L

In an engrossing historical novel, the Newbery Medal-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia follows a young Cuban teenager as she volunteers for Fidel Castro's national literacy campaign and travels into the impoverished countryside to teach others how to read. When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro's army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana -- why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody's kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn't her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora's abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen's coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author's note and a timeline of Cuban history.

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