Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Before We Were Free” as Want to Read:
Before We Were Free
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Before We Were Free

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  3,012 ratings  ·  502 reviews
Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tio Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government's secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo's dictatorship.Using the strength an ...more
Library Binding, 176 pages
Published August 13th 2002 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Before We Were Free, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Before We Were Free

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Edward K
These days, I haven’t been reading a lot except one book and it is The Shining but I already wrote about it. The only other book that I am reading besides that book is the school book, Before We Were Free. Even though it is a school book, I find it interesting with a great storyline and a lot of hints and symbols in it. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Dominican Republic and the time where they weren’t free from the dictator El Jefe, and someone who just can’t fin ...more
William L
I recommend the book “Before We Were Free” because it keeps the pages turning and at the same time it makes you tense and want to know what’s going to occur in the next page. I did not finish the book yet so I don’t know whether it was satisfying to read it or not but I can guarantee you that this book will make you satisfied. I can relate that I feel scared at times and I want to be brave but I don’t know what to do. The plot is suspenseful and interesting and the theme is very well developed. ...more
Crystal Bandel
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez, published 2002.

Historical fiction.


Grades 7-10.

Found via Horn Book Magazine, reviewed by Lauren Adams.

Anita is an upper-class girl in the Dominican Republic, living through the end of the Trujillo dictatorship and trying to make sense of it all. She begins the novel clueless about the dictatorship, as many readers might be, and slowly she pieces together her family's fears and the freedoms that have been taken from everyone. As Anita learns more and kee
In Julia Alvarez’s first young adult novel, Before we were Free, we meet 12-year-old Anita de la Torre. Like many young children, she is curious and talkative. Having lived a comfortingly protected life thus far, Anita is sweetly innocent and naïve. Her life seems rather normal. She annoys her older sister and has a crush on her new American neighbor Sam. However all of this will change quickly. The story takes place in the Dominican Republic during the months leading up to the assassination of ...more
Feb 12, 2012 Natalie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Newbery books and/or Lois Lowry
This book was a solid "blah" for me. It wasn't that it was necessarily bad, it was just boring. Alvarez tried to make this book a heart-racing drama, but it just didn't cut it. Especially since Anita spent most of the book dealing with such average teenage problems, envying her sister, talking about puberty, and obsessing over her various crushes.
High Points.
Whenever there was actually some suspense...not very often. Trujillo's interest in her sister (unlikely, but actually quite grotesquely su
Stephan M
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Min J
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Before We Were Free/ Julia Alvarez/2002

Genre: Multi-Cultural Fiction/ Historical Fiction

Format: Book

Summary: Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government's secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo's dictatorship. (summary taken from Google Books)

I listened to "Before We Were Free" which was read by Julia Alvarez, the author herself. Although I loved her voice which was perfect with accents and Spanish words said as they should be, I kept wanting to go back to read different parts of the story. I had a more difficult time following the story because of characters I think. I did not know much about the Dominican Republic and the dictatorship of it's goverenment during the middle of the 20th century and this was a good way for me to learn ...more
Anita is a young teenager whose large extended family all live happily on her grandfather's compound until the dictatorship of the Dominican Republic threatens the lives of those she holds dear. So one family at a time moves off the compound to United States as it becomes too dangerous to continue living there. Except hers. During the next few months her family must stay and secretly fight for the freedom of the nation. She watches and listens as the Resistance takes foundation in her home, and ...more
Anthony Cho
Before We Were Free

I recommend this book because, it has a unique plotline, and is full of interesting characters and settings. The book kept me turning pages, because it was addicting and the events were fascinating throughout the story. This book is full of suspense, making me turn the pages to see what happened next. I am not done reading this book yet, but am close to the ending. I relate to the character Anita, because just like her I am sort of caring for my family and my friends. Just li
Excellent YA novel. Treatment of this subject by a child narrator actually makes it even more immediate and frightening, because the 12-year-old protagonist, Anita, was often confused and scared due to not knowing exactly what was going on. When she finally did learn more about what was happening in her country and to her family, it felt even more emotional and painful. She hadn't realized that dictator Trujillo was reviled by many people, including her parents, until the events in the book bega ...more
Lindsey Duncan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amber Wortz
Amber Wortz

"Before We Were Free," by Julia Alvarez is a work of fiction about a family living in the Dominican Republic in the 1950's and 1960's under rule of the dictator Rafael Trujillo. The main character, Anita, tells her story in first person perspective about being a part of a family who is trying to overcome the dictator and what it's like to live in fear of the government destroying your home and family.
This is an amazing book. The author has some experience with this topic,
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joey Kim
I thought that this book was really accurate to what actually happened at the Dominican Republic. Although it was accurate, I didn't enjoy the book that much. It was a little slow moving, at some parts and hard to keep turning pages, but at some parts it was pretty good and it was easy to move on. However, it still had a lot of good things in it. It made you think deeply about the story, and required a little bit of research to figure out what was going on. Also, it had many symbols in it that w ...more
Jennifer Ward
Apr 06, 2008 Jennifer Ward rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grades 5th-8th
Shelves: fiction-juvenile
This novel reminded me a great deal of Diary of Anne Frank. Change the setting and you have Anita, a 12 year old girl who lives in the Dominican Republic which is dictated by El Jefe. It was a bit disturbing that the family planned his demise which outright strikes anyone as immoral and yet as the story unfolds you see the reasons behind it and you're drawn in and hoping that they can kill the dictator and get out of town. It's a novel that makes you think about what is right and wrong and does ...more
Anita de la Torre, the main character of the book, lived in a world where the people she knew slowly disappeared. This situation in Dominican Republic not only paralyzed her relationship with her father but also forced her to live a life full of dangers.The current president of the country wanted to take young women for his own purposes. Anita, being one of the women that the tyrannous president had set eyes on, becomes the the reason why her family is constantly visited by the secret police. An ...more
I enjoyed reading this, especially right after reading Number the Stars (similar themes and some overlap in plot, but in a different historical setting). It is the story of a girl trying to grow into a woman in a time when her world and her sense of reality is crumbling. The theme of freedom and what it means to be free is recurring and is considered through the eyes of a girl growing into a young woman who must struggle to understand how sometimes there is a layer of lies in what we come to bel ...more
This book taught me that at the end of the day all you have is family and you will do anything to protect them. It also reminded me what freedom really is and how sometimes we take the small things for granted.
I liked this book and I think it was an interesting way to engage young adults and young girls in world politics. Growing up in the United States, it is often difficult for us to understand the lifestyles and conditions for people under dictatorships. The main character in this coming of age novel is a young girl, Anita, who experiences all the excitement and mystery of childhood, and the confusion and fear of growing up, mixed in with confusion as she learns about her government through her dis ...more
This book is historic fiction for the middle grade student. The story takes place in 1961, during a time of great unrest in the Dominican Republic. Rafael Trujillo was the brutal dictator who had ruled with an iron thumb for decades. An Underground group developed a plan to assassinate him. America’s President Eisenhower had pledged support, but when President Kennedy took office, he withdrew it. The plan was already in motion, and perhaps doomed to failure because of this action. Following the ...more
Having read "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" earlier this year, I felt the strange pain of family separation hit me in a familiar way. While the Garcia's point of view is one of what we call "xenitia" in Greek (the longing for homeland one feels, particularly when the separation has been unintended or not initiated out of a desire to separate), Anita's story is one of those left behind to continue and complete the struggle for freedom. There is a lot in this small book about Trujillo an ...more
Loved, loved, loved this!!! Coming of age novel about a girl who, alongside her family, has to cope the tyranny of the 1960's Dominican Republic dictatorship. Alvarez does an amazing job telling the story through the eyes of the main character. She is a child in the beginning, but her voice changes as she begins the realize the harsh realities of her world. Awesome!!!
Before we were free is an inspirational book about a young girl living under the reign of Trujillo. She goes from having everything to living her her aunts closets so she doesn't get captured by the SIM. This book lives up to its title "before we were free" because it based on the struggles the main character,Anita,goes through before her family can finally escape to the states where they can be free. If you love Drama of Historical boos then "Before we were free" is for you. Julia Alvarez provi ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beginning lags a bit, setting the scene, perhaps even more so because I had already read How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and the characters and major plot arch overlap. But later the novel really picked up, exploring family and being a kid and being a responsible kid and being an adult, and of course keeping secrets and feeling confused and encountering violence and freedom as a country and as individuals. Several characters were so vivid, and many small moments were rich, tender, funny. ...more
Vera Perez
This book found me by chance at Strand Book Store, when I read the synopsis I knew I had to buy it. We are always looking for ways to connect to our past, to somehow understand what was life like during those times we read so plainly in our textbooks; this book is an answer to that plea.

Before we were free is beautifully written to describe the lives of some Dominicans under the dictatorship of Rafael L Trujillo through the eyes of a girl. This book in particular shows the side of the populatio
Wow, my first Alvarez novel and it moved me. A beautiful story about a history of which I knew relatively little.

I will seriously consider this for my course for the seventh grade.
Patrick Waite
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez is a book that shows the life of a 12 year old Dominican Republic girl named Anita. The book takes place in the 1940's when the Dominican Republic was under rule of Rafael Trujillo. The book didn't really seem interesting, but after I read more it did improve. Like many young children, Anita is curious and talkative. She realizes that “El Jefe” is not the hero she believed him to be but a dictator who threatens her family and friends that disappears and tortu ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
wat you think about this book?? 14 51 May 08, 2014 09:44AM  
ENG 580 Spring 2014: Choice Book 3: Before We Were Free 1 2 Mar 03, 2014 06:02PM  
  • The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
  • The Tequila Worm
  • Breaking Through
  • Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida
  • Just in Case
  • Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart
  • Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
  • My Name Is Gabito/Me Llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/La Vida de Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Pot That Juan Built
  • Call Me Maria
  • Cuba 15
  • Diego: Bigger Than Life
  • The Composition
  • Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale
  • Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio
  • Los Gatos Black on Halloween
  • The Storyteller's Candle/La velita de los cuentos
  • Behind the Mountains (First Person Fiction)
Julia Álvarez was born in New York City. Her parents moved back to the Dominican Republic when Álvarez was 3 months old and she was raised there until she was 10, when the family moved back to NYC.

She is currently writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and the owner of a coffee farm named Alta Gracia, near Jarabacoa in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. The farm hosts a school to teach l
More about Julia Alvarez...
In the Time of the Butterflies How the García Girls Lost Their Accents Yo! In the Name of Salome Saving the World

Share This Book