Hold Tight Don’t Let Go

Laura Rose Wagner (Abrams Books 2015)

Wagner’s book details the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, through the experience of two teenage girls. Magdalie and Nadine, are cousins turned twin sisters, who rely on each other as they try to re-build their lives. When Nadine is presented with the opportunity to leave Haiti the sisters’ bond is tested. The book details the grief and anger Magdalie faces surviving in the capital and among the tent cities as she attempts to save up enough money to buy a plane ticket to the United States. Hold Tight Don’t Let Go captures the complex experiences of life in Port-Au-Prince, from the ingenuity and tenacity of making ends meet to the belief in a better future and a stronger nation. Hold Tight Don’t Let Go is as much of a coming of age story as it is about not giving up.

Principle Themes:

Kinship is a principle theme. As old familial bonds are strained, and new kinship ties are forged, Magdalie creates community and family in the tent cities all the way to the countryside of Jeremie, relying on both old and new connections to sustain her spirit and keep her moving.  Hope, is a contradictorily fleeting and consistent aspect of Magdalies life after the earthquake. Magdalie is able to continue hoping despite the multitudinous obstacles she faces. Lastly, tenacity is a key theme, for when hope fails Magdalie tenacity is what propels her forward despite her the uncertainty of the future.

Language: English

Age: High School Reading Level (YA reading topics)

Region: Caribbean

Discussion Questions:

What are some of the challenges Magdalie faces in the wake of the earthquake?

How does Magdalie’s sense of community change?

Educator Questions:

Do you include Haiti in your Latin American Curriculum? Why or why not?

What are some ways to create intentional space for histories, culture, language (etc.) in your classroom when discussing Latin America? 

More Resources:

The authors website

Podcast Episode with the Author: “Bringing Back Radio Haiti, A Station That Told The Overlooked Stories.” Interview on WUNC’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio about the Radio Haiti Archive. With Michèle Montas and Laurent Dubois. (February 2015)

New York Times Book Review


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