Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Firefly Letters - Margarita Engle

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle
Before I even get to the book, let me just say, I love this cover. The artist behind it is Ana Juan Firefly Letters is written in free verse. Fredrika Bremer, was an author and she fought for the rights of women. In 1851 Bremer went to Cuba for three months. Engle read, Bremer's letters, diaries, notes and sketeches from that visit, The FireFly Letters is derived from that. ( I got all this lovely information from the historical note in the back of the book)

The Swedish consulate places Fredrika with a rich family in Cuba. The family has slaves. Cecilia, a slave (around 15 yrs old), is Bremer's guide and translator. 12 yr old Elena, is the daughter of the house. The story is told through these three women. Engle has given Cecilia's husband Beni, a few poems of his own. I like them, especially the first one. Though I do think Beni's poem messed with the rhythm of the story a little.


The huts of the freed slaves
make me think of my lost home
I remember a ghostly mist
rising over the river
after a boy drowned
trying to escape
from the slave traders.

The mist was silent
but the water sang softly
telling its own
flowing story

If I had known
that my father would trade me
for a stoloen cow
I would have run away
into the forest
to live in a nest
made of dreams
and green leaves.

Fredrika is against slavery and hates how women are treated in Cuba. Fredrika documented her trip in hopes of making people care about what was going on. With Cecilia as her guide Fredrika see much of Cuba. At night the two save fireflies, from the children who pull of their wings.

Elena watches from her window. Its 1851, and its not proper for a young girl to do, basically anything. Elena can only do as she is told. She longs for a little independence.

Engle's poems are beautiful. The voices of the three women fit together like music. The Firefly Letters was simply a pleasure to read.


evelyn.n.alfred said...

Aww, you review books like this because you know I'll buy them. It's a conspiracy. LOL.

Doret said...

And, I know poetry is your weakness and will use it against you.

Lenore said...

That IS an awesome cover!