Friday, August 26, 2011

The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella
By Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 284 pages. Historical fiction.

14-year old Lucia lives with her family in Cuba in 1961, in the time of the great Communist revolution. Her life is increasingly affected by Castro's rule, until it reaches the point that her parents send Lucia and her little brother to the United States. The two become a part of "Operation Pedro Pan"- a real program- and are adopted by foster parents in Nebraska. The siblings face a major adjustment period with a new language, new family, and new school. They are later reunited with their parents, who were fortunate enough to escape Cuba.

This is a poignant, educational work of historical fiction. I really felt the rich Cuban culture through Gonzalez's writing. This is also a good pick for a book club, as it lends itself well to group discussions. It may only be appropriate for older audiences (10 years and up) as one of the neighbors is hung in the street, and another character alludes to a brigadista taking advantage of her. There is also a scene where Lucia tells her American foster mother that she wants to go to the beach, but with her heavy accent, she pronounces it with the short "i" sound. This scene doesn't read as scandalous, I actually found it kind of funny and endearing as Lucia learns this new language. For further reading on the sixties, check out Countdown by Deborah Wiles.

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