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Before We Were Free

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  4,086 Ratings  ·  636 Reviews
I wonder what it would be like to be free? Not to need wings because you don’t have to fly away from your country?

Anita de la Torre is a twelve-year-old girl living in the Dominican Republic in 1960. Most of her relatives have emigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared, Papi has been getting mysterious phone calls about butterflies and someone named Mr. S
Mass Market Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Laurel Leaf (first published January 1st 2002)
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Dec 13, 2015 Myung-Hwan rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I read it as a part of our class novel and it was very well written. The book referenced important historical figures such as the Butterfly sisters and El Jefe. The protagonist matured physically and socially throughout the book as she realized that the world she lived in wasn't so great. Julia Alvarez wrote in a way that hooked me into the book and made me turn every single page of the book until the About Me of the book flap appeared. One element that got me so hook ...more
Edward K
Nov 14, 2013 Edward K rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2012 Natalie rated it it was ok
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
Crystal Bandel
Oct 07, 2013 Crystal Bandel rated it really liked it
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
William L
Nov 14, 2013 William L rated it liked it
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
CJ Baroni
Apr 18, 2016 CJ Baroni rated it it was amazing
Before we were Free was written by Julia Alvarez. Julia Alvarez was born on March 27, 1950 in New York City to a Dominican family. Alvarez is an impressive Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist. Alvarez has also written famous novels like In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accent. In this historical fiction, it is about life in the Dominican Republic from the eyes of a young girl, Anita de la Torre. Anita and her family are under the rule of a dictator, ...more
May 14, 2013 Katrina rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
Anita de la Torre lives with her extended family in the Dominican Republic during the increasing cruel Trujillo dictatorship. Most of her family has escaped to the U.S., but she and her immediate family stay to "take care of the store", which Anita finds out means working with the underground resistance.
Dec 15, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 06, 2012 Marten rated it really liked it
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.
Corey Sarazin
Before We Were Free is a realistic fiction book about a maturing girl in the Dominican Republic while under the cruel lead of Rafael Trujillo, or El Jefe. Julia Alvarez, the author, writes the book from the perspective of a naïve girl named Anita; this point of view is creative due to the parts of the book where the reader is left questioning what is true or why something is happening. Alvarez ties this book to her childhood growing up in the Dominican Republic during this tough time. The idea o ...more
Alan Zhu
May 04, 2016 Alan Zhu rated it liked it
Shelves: school
Before We Were Free is a historical fiction written by Julia Alvarez. Julia Alvarez is a Dominican American novelist born in New York City. She had lived in the Dominican Republic for 10 years before her family immigrated to the United States. According to Alvarez in her Author's Note, this novel was written based on her experience in Trujillo-controlled Dominican Republic during her childhood, and her cousins and her next-door uncle's experience of being victims of SIM and Trujillo Jr.

The main
Jan 22, 2015 Ryan rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adriana Villagomez
Jan 19, 2015 Adriana Villagomez rated it really liked it
As a child, do you remember being so excited for your birthday to arrive that that was the only thing on your mind? Anita, is turning 12 years old and that's the only thing on her mind during an unusual time of civil war and unrest in her country. Our main character, Anita, lives in the Dominican Republic. As events escalate as the book continues, Anita realizes that the safety of her family is more important. Anita’s father and uncle are part of a group that successfully assassinated the dictat ...more
Oct 09, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it
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)

Stephan M
Jan 27, 2013 Stephan M rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anthony Cho
Nov 14, 2013 Anthony Cho rated it really liked it
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
Min J
Jan 26, 2013 Min J rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 24, 2012 Raquel rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, january
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
Feb 08, 2010 Linda rated it liked it
Shelves: lationo-a
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
Jun 15, 2016 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 28, 2012 A_Cathi rated it liked it
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
Amber Wortz
Mar 11, 2012 Amber Wortz rated it it was amazing
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,
Lindsey Duncan
Sep 16, 2014 Lindsey Duncan rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer Ward
Apr 06, 2008 Jennifer Ward rated it really liked it
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
Joey Kim
Jan 22, 2013 Joey Kim rated it liked it
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
Apr 13, 2009 Januario added it
Shelves: 2008-2009
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
Jan 21, 2013 Courtney rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Mar 19, 2016 `Cristina rated it really liked it
Simple and yet powerful testament to freedom, and what it means living without. The story takes place in the Dominican Republic under Truijllo' dictatorship, but it could easily be any other country deprived of liberty. I have read several books about the same argument, and I liked this one because it tells the story through the eyes of a young girl Anita. Though only 11, Anita finds herself to the reality and the horror of a dictatorship, something no child should ever have to face. Julia Alvar ...more
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My Book Review 1 2 Mar 18, 2016 07:04PM  
wat you think about this book?? 14 57 May 08, 2014 09:44AM  
ENG 580 Spring 2014: Choice Book 3: Before We Were Free 1 2 Mar 03, 2014 06:02PM  
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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...

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