February 3rd | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! I really hope you find the resources I shared helpful. I know it was enjoyable collecting them.

Latinos in Kid Lit shared a book review of When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore. We haven’t read this one yet at Vamos a Leer, but it looks really interesting: “Teaching this novel opens up the opportunity to research different legends, traditions, and cultural practices in relation to gender plurality and sexuality.”

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WWW: Reparations and Confronting the Legacy of Slavery in the Island Nation Known as the First Black Republic

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Another week has gone by already! And just like that, we are into February. Thanks for reading again. Hopefully 2016 has gone smoothly for everyone reading! I know we are feeling the pace increase a bit here.

As February takes hold, and many classrooms turn to studies of Black History and the Civil Rights Movement, we at Vamos a Leer are turning our focus to the history of Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbean people. In this post in particular, I am addressing (very briefly) the widespread history of slavery and its implications particularly within Haiti and other Caribbean countries.

Besides open immigration flows, there are people of African descent in every country in the Western Hemisphere in large measure because Africans were taken forcibly as slaves and transported from Africa to the Americas from the 15th to the 19th century, used as human barter in exchange for goods, spices, and outright income. As slaves, Africans were treated as goods; they were bought, sold, traded, beaten and killed for disobeying unjust rules and regulations set by their owners. Side bar: we acknowledge that this is a difficult topic to teach, but also want to emphasize how necessary it is to have these conversations in our classrooms. For a brief overview of what to keep in mind when teaching about slavery writ large, see the article “Tongue-Tied” by Teaching Tolerance. Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Firefly LettersOver the past several weeks, we have discussed how civil rights impact all people. This week, we would like to turn to a book written by Margarita Engle that puts a different spin on the idea of civil rights. All minority groups have had to fight for their rights, and this includes women. It is also important to note that the fight for civil rights is not specific to the United States. Nearly all countries in Latin America have seen similar movements by minority groups–and these struggles are not necessarily recent. This is evident in Engle’s The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba, a book discussing the women’s rights movement in Cuba in the 19th century.

This book, written in prose, is most suitable for middle grade readers. It tells the story of Fredrika Bremer, a real life suffragette, from Swedish. Engle chronicles Bremer’s real life trip to Cuba in 1851 in this historical fiction. Elena, the daughter of Bremer’s wealthy host family, and Cecelia, a slave, join Bremer in her journey through the Cuban countryside. Engle chronicles the journey of these women and their personal development throughout the book. The Firefly Letters is a 2011 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Narrative.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom

"The Surrender Tree," written by Margarita Engle.The Surrender Tree is a unique novel, both for its content and its style.  It tells the story of an often overlooked or overshadowed period in early Cuban history when the country was embroiled in three different wars for independence between 1868-1898.  In an unexpected move, the author, Margarita Engle, chooses to tell the story in verse form.  Now, I have to admit to some hesitancy and a little bit of dread when I realized the novel was written in free verse.  Yet, I was captivated by the story almost immediately, finishing it in an afternoon. Continue reading