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The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist

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“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.”

Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute.

182 pages, Hardcover

First published March 19, 2013

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About the author

Margarita Engle

56 books340 followers
Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She lives with her husband in northern California.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 272 reviews
Profile Image for Camie.
893 reviews186 followers
April 12, 2015
This is a very short but beautiful YA book written completely in verse and dedicated to "Young poets who are in search of words " Margarita Engle has written a fictional account based on the true story of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda, ( Tula) a 14 year old girl from the nineteenth century living in the Spanish colony of Cuba who had the courage to speak out with words disguised as poetry and metaphor against slavery, the common custom which forced 14 year old girls to marry wealthy older men in order to increase the family's wealth and status ( which she refused to do, twice) , the right for girls to be allowed to read, and racism of any kind. Tula wrote two books of poetry about these subjects, as well as that of of unrequited love ( caused by arranged marriages) which were banned in Cuba but allowed in Spain where she lived the latter part of her life.
If you are one who highlights books you will hard pressed as to which verses to choose.
"The Slave let his mind fly free, and his thoughts soared higher than the clouds where lightening forms."
Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda. 5 stars
Profile Image for Becca.
250 reviews322 followers
May 8, 2013
*This review contains quotes from the book, but NO SPOILERS.*

“Books are door-shaped
Carrying me
Across oceans
And centuries,
Helping me feel
Less alone.

But my mother believes
That girls who read too much
Are unladylike
And ugly,
So my father’s books are locked
In a clear glass cabinet. I gaze
At enticing covers
And mysterious titles,
But I am rarely permitted
To touch
The enchantment
Of words.

When Caridad and I peer
Through the bars of a window,
We see weary slave girls trudging
Along the rough cobblestone street,
With enormous baskets
Of pineapples and coconuts
Balanced on their heads.

Sometimes I feel as if
I can trade my thoughts
For theirs. Are we really
So different, with our heavy
Array of visible
And invisible

So begins the true story of Tula, a courageous 13-year-old girl who lived in Cuba and grew up to be an abolitionist, told in lyrical verse.

In Cuba during early 19th century a person could not speak out against slavery like one could in the U.S. Engle writes that “censorship was hard and penalties were severe. The most daring abolitionists were poets who could veil their work with metaphors.” So that a 13-year-old girl was writing and reading poetry that expressed different views than expected was an enormous deal.

Tula was forbidden to read by her mother from an early age, but thanks to her father, learned to love it while he was still alive. Later finds solace in the library at the convent where she receives lessons on saints, as the nuns are allowed to read books that women outside of the church are not.

Tula is getting ready to be married off to someone she does not know or love because it is custom, just as it is custom for girls to be uneducated. Tula explains to her mother she doesn’t wish to be traded off for gold, but her mother doesn’t understand why Tula is more interested in books than in ball gowns and popping out babies. She is worried that no man will want a woman who reads and is full of opinions. But Tula doesn’t want to “marry a bank account instead of a human.”

So anyways, Tula begins writing poetry when her father dies. It is her hidden outlet in her oppressive world. In the convent library, Tula discovers the work of Jose Maria Heredia, a rebel poet, who inspires her to bravely resist her arranged marriage and to fight against slavery and injustice in Cuba. Tula writes,

“I have discovered injustice
But what good is a witness
Who cannot testify?”

To me, that one stanza is full of so much raw emotional energy and is such a powerful testament to the obstacles that lie in Tula’s path. This stanza is by the nuns at the convent to Tula:

“So many people
Have not yet learned
That souls have no color
And can never
Be owned.”

Tula is distressed after she sees a woman leave her baby at the doorstep just because his skin is brown. The nuns tell her that most of the “orphans” there are not orphans at all, but merely discarded because some people haven’t learned everyone is worth loving equally.

The Lightning Dreamer is a powerful and mesmerizing story. The verse flows smoothly and is never jarring. It is told mostly from Tula’s point of view, but also from the perspectives of her younger brother, Manuel, their Mama, their cook, Caridad, and Sab, a freed slave of mixed heritage that Tula meets at an underground poetry reading. It is interesting to have the different perspectives and Engle pulls it off beautifully with seamless transitions that keep the story flowing in the same verse yet are obviously different voices. It was very impressive.

Overall, a moving account of Tula’s story and I actually, ASTONISHINGLY for me!, wished the book were longer.
Profile Image for The Dusty Jacket.
281 reviews25 followers
April 12, 2019
In a country where both men and words are closely guarded, it is the poet who proved to be the boldest and most daring abolitionist. Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (nicknamed Tula) is thirteen and enjoying her last year of personal freedom in Cuba. When she turns fourteen, she will be sold into matrimony to the highest bidder and her mother will use the proceeds from her marriage to buy more slaves. Tula abhors slavery and often feels enslaved herself by a society that denies her an education, the right to vote, or the freedom to choose when and whom she will marry. But Tula suddenly finds light in her dark world when she discovers the convent’s library. Here, in a dusty corner, lies forbidden words of hope, rebellion, and the promise of freedom from a rebel-poet by the name of José Mariá Heredia.

"The Lightning Dreamer" is a work of historical fiction and is based on the life of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, a poet and playwright known as one of the world’s most influential female writers. Written entirely in free verse, this story switches between numerous points of view to allow the reader to see firsthand the profound and unimagined impact that poetry has on its audience. Engle’s work is stunningly vibrant and beautiful and conveys an expansive range of emotions with just a few carefully chosen words. For example, we experience Tula’s heartbreak as she finally resigns herself to a life devoid of freedom and choices: “During those times,/ I find it easy to forget/ that I’m just a girl who is expected/ to live/ without thoughts.” The nuns at the convent see Tula torn between two worlds and offer her the only comfort they can: “In a mother’s eyes,/ she can be only/ a monster of defiance/ or an angel of obedience,/ nothing/ in between.//So, we send her to the library,/ a safe place to heal/ and dream…”

During her lifetime, Avellaneda fought for racial and gender equality and although her ideas were considered shocking at the time, her vision was eventually accepted and Cuban slaves gained their freedom, schools became integrated, and young girls were able to enter into marriage voluntarily and for love. Tula once said, “Books are door-shaped portals carrying me across oceans and centuries, helping me feel less alone.” Engle reminds us of the power behind the written word and the hope, promise, and escape those words offer when nestled between the covers of a book.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,733 reviews327 followers
October 16, 2015
Subtitle: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist. This piece of historical fiction is told entirely in verse, the medium which Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (a/k/a Tula) chose to voice her opinions on slavery and women’s rights.

Engle gives us some insight into the conflicting thoughts and feelings of the young Tula as she approaches the age when young girls are given in marriage – or, as she puts it “sold to a stranger to ensure the family’s fortunes.” Her refusal to bow to this tradition earns her the scorn and ridicule of her mother and peers, and banishment to her grandfather’s plantation. She often expresses how she feels almost as enslaved as the slaves her family has to do their work.

Engle’s poetry is moving and elegant; I marvel that she can convey so much in so few words. At the end of the novel she includes some historical background on Gertrudis, as well as some of her original poetry (in Spanish, with translation).

I highly recommend this for everyone, but especially for young women.
Profile Image for Athena of Velaris.
466 reviews125 followers
July 25, 2020
"I think of my feather pen as something magical that still belongs to a wing. All I need is paper, ink and the courage to let wild wings soar."

"So many people have not yet learned that souls have no color and can never be owned."

The Lightning Dreamer tells the story of a young girl who finds poetry as a way to rebel against an arranged marriage, fight for freedom, and slander the institution of slavery. The way the story is told is beautiful. The author has a way with words, arranging her poems so that their design on the page means something. The way each character was portrayed was brilliant, each adopting a different voice when they spoke through the pages, either as a collective group or as a singular person. This book manages to fight against the historical injustice of yesterday while still echoing into the 21st century. A relatively quick read, I could not put it down once I had opened the first page. The only problem I had with the story was the fourth part, which I found to be disjointed and rushed. Overall, I really enjoyed the Lightning Dreamer, and plan to pick up other novels in verse in the future.
Profile Image for Galib.
272 reviews57 followers
July 26, 2022
এতো সুন্দর কবিতার বই অনেকদিন পড়া হয়নি। কবিতার চেয়ে এটাকে জীবনের গল্প বলাই ভালো। কিউবার বিখ্যাত Abolitionist, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, এর জীবনের গল্প এটা। তার ছোট বেলা। মেয়েদের উপর চাপিয়ে দেয়া নিষেধাজ্ঞা অমান্য করে বিদ্রোহী রুপে বেড়ে ওঠা এবং শেষের দিকে এমন একজনকে ভালো লাগা - যাকে কখনোই নিজের করে পাওয়া হবে না।
Profile Image for Ellie 9218.
492 reviews
April 23, 2015
A short little novel, beautifully written in poetic verse. The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist is a fictionalized biography of Cuban abolitionist, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda (nicknamed Tula).

The story begins in Cuba in 1827 and focuses on Tula’s life as a teenager where she struggles to understand slavery, the practice of forced marriages, the oppression of women, and the denial of an education for girls (all considered the social norm). In a convent library (where she goes for embroidery lessons), Tula discovers the banned books of Cuban rebel poet,José María Heredia. The poems inspire Tula to write of the injustices around her. Tula became a poet, a novelist, a feminist, and an abolitionist, and was brave enough to speak up for those who could not.

I loved this book in verse.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 4 books318 followers
October 19, 2014
Strong start, beautiful and compelling language. Not sure about the ending. We're considering it for a whole-class read in 6th grade.
Profile Image for Arya.
223 reviews47 followers
November 21, 2017
I liked this book. I liked learning about Tula and I'm really looking forward to read some more detailed books about her in the future.
Profile Image for Shelley.
1,225 reviews
January 15, 2014
The Lightning Dreamer is a beautifully written book-in-verse about the life of a young girl growing up in Cuba. Tula is a girl who is more enamored with books than she is with boys which would be fine in the United States, however, she does not live there. When Tula becomes fourteen, her parents expect her to marry to better not only her station in life but theirs as well. But Tula wants nothing to do with an arranged marriage and spends much of her time expressing her opinions on freedom for women to friends and even her family’s helpers. She is fueling a fire which has been brewing for years but Tula’s words seem to motivate many to take action.

Before beginning this book, I noticed it was written by Newbery Award Winning author, Margarita Engle, so my expectations were high. I was not disappointed. When I read some books which are written in verse, I feel as though something is lost because they are shorter but the author magically takes the reader deep into the mind and soul of this young girl. This book is great for junior high and up and is a great look into the world of historical fiction. I would suggest this as a starter book for those looking to try historical fiction and I would hope that teachers would promote this book for the fine piece of writing that it is.
Profile Image for Jeff Zell.
388 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2014
The whole novel is set in poetic verse. Tula knows how to read and write but is forbidden by her mother to delve into written stories or poetry. It is a waste of time according to mother. Tula is a real historical figure. Engle offers a fictional account of how Tula came to realize her passion as a poet. Tula is Spanish and lives in Cuba. In the 19th century, Cuba was a colony of Spain. Slaves were used to do manual labor in homes and fields. Tula despised slavery at a young age. She also despised the idea of living in an arranged marriage when she turned 14. Twice she rejected arrangements of her relatives. She wanted to marry for love, not economic status.

Tula eventually leaves for Havana. From there she makes her way to Spain.

Tula is Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-1873). In Spain she wrote a book title Sab which persuaded people to question slavery and to not distinguish between people because of the color of their skin.

Engle's poetry is a delight to read. Tula is the primary voice in the poetry. However, Engle gives voice to Tula's brother, mother, cook, and Sab.

Through Tula we learn about what it is like to be withheld from education just because of her gender, be nearly forced into arranged marriages, be deeply frustrated by humans being made into slaves, and to know the deep pangs of love.
Profile Image for Crystal.
2,187 reviews112 followers
March 14, 2017
Reading this for #bookbootcamp today was a pleasure. I am amazed by the woman this story was based on - Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-1873). She was a feminist and abolitionist in a time when expressing those thoughts was certainly dangerous. Margarita Engle created this novel-in-verse to express some of those ideas. Here are some of the lines that grabbed me as I read.

[the 'she' is her mother who doesn't think women should read]
She sends me to my silent room,
where I spend quiet hours remembering
the freedom
to read.

Beyond these convent gates, books
are locked away
and men
the keys.

Some people
are born with words flowing
in their veins.

Just as often, poetry is a free
of birds in air
and dipping
in surprising

So many people
have not yet learned
that souls have no color
and can never
be owned.

All I need
is paper, ink,
and the courage
to let wild words soar.

- originally posted at http://readingtl.blogspot.com/2013/09...
Profile Image for Cynthia.
599 reviews24 followers
March 13, 2021
Beautiful book. Fantastic poetry.

The Lightning Dreamer is the story of Tula, a young girl who dared to be different in 19th century Cuba. While the poetry by Engle is fictional, I highly enjoyed seeing her approach to talking about the life of Tula and how she grew up to be such an icon for feminism, equality, and abolition. I loved Engle's poetry and found it very easy to read and relate to. I loved even more how she included actual factual information at the end of the book a long with some of Tula's own poetry. I hope to read Sab some day and I'm so happy this book introduced me to such an important figure in history.
Profile Image for K M.
454 reviews
April 13, 2017
Shame on me - I had never heard of this author, nor the subject of this book - Cuban poet, abolitionist, and feminist Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. This story in verse tells of Tula's childhood and adolescence, and is followed by historical notes that teach the reader about her actual writings.
March 16, 2018
“The Lightning Dreamer,”
by Margarita Engle

“The Lightning Dreamer” by Margarita Engle, is a story that takes place in Cuba where girls were not allowed to read and were arranged in a marriage at a certain age. The main character’s name is Mula. Mula has one brother and she lives with her father and mother, she like reading books but she is not allowed to read because she is a girl, and her culture believed that a girl who reads books is an unladylike and that a girl is born to be married and take care of her husband and kids.

Then, when Tula turned Fourteen her parent arranged a marriage for her, and her grandfather was the one who chose a fiance for her, but Tula said to herself,”I rather am a hermit than live with a stranger who would make me even more lonely than when I am truly alone.”Tula refused to get married but focus on her writing, then after that, her grandfather die with anger towards Tula’s mother that she didn’t inherit anything from him because Tula did not want to get married.

My opinion about “The Lightning Dreamer” is that the author did a great job because Tula’s country was a hopeless world for girls most of them ended up the same way, but Tula’s story shows that no matter how hard the situation can be if someone decides to stick on their dreams they can end up finding peace, as Tula said at last,”For the first time in my life I’ve been released from the walls that trap women.”

I would give this book a rating of 3 because it is a book that encourages people to follow their dreams and mostly women, but at the same time, most of the issues that take place has come to an end in this current world.
Profile Image for Colleen.
24 reviews
March 24, 2020
The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Englie is a Pura Belpre Honor Book. It is a historical fiction account that is written in verses through primarily the perspective of a young girl named Tula. Tula is based on Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda who lived from 1814 - 1873 in Cuba during the 19th century and was one of the world's most prominent female writers who wrote Sab one of the first abolitionist novels that included feminist themes also. Tula spoke out in her poems about the unfairness of arranged marriages and how she felt about the existence and horrors of slavery. The book was short in length but extremely powerful in meaning and full of emotion. The verses were beautiful and you could really feel how strong Tula was and how she always stood up for her beliefs. The underlying them of love was spread throughout. I think this would be a fantastic choice for any studies revolving around slavery, the history of Cuba, and a study of human nature and civil rights in a poem form. The verses occasionally go back and forth from Tula and you hear other's perspectives in the poems such as her brother, her mother, a slave and a man that she loves. This would be a good book to study different perspectives of a situation in a classroom and how history is written from different perspectives as well and that is important to examine.
Profile Image for Candace.
Author 10 books158 followers
April 28, 2019
This wonderful book of free verse poetry taught a beautiful lesson of survival, choice, and freedom. This true life account is presented in such a lovely way, it is full of so many strong affirmations for young women, looking closely at the nature and strength of the feminine voice. I highly encourage this book for anyone struggling with their own personal worth and creativity. It's a beautiful representation of everything I feel about reading, writing, and the loveliness of making words into stories.
Profile Image for Cynthia Egbert.
2,111 reviews25 followers
September 20, 2021
This is a beautifully told story using verse and bringing to life a woman who is a true inspiration. I appreciated the effort the author took to add so much pertinent information at the end of the book so that I could learn the facts and understand where I could go for more information on Gertrudis de Avellaneda. There were many beautiful passage in this book but one struck me more deeply than any others.

"But this rough world prefers
laws soaked in dirt, not air ones
drenched in clear light."
Profile Image for Cara (Wilde Book Garden).
1,002 reviews57 followers
October 9, 2022
3.75 stars, may bump up later!

Similarly to the other book I read by Margarita Engle, I love the history and ideas, I learned a lot, and there were some lines/poems I loved - but overall her verse style isn't my favorite, and I think the characters and relationships needed more fleshing out even considering what a short book it is.

Still very glad I read it, would recommend it, and I'm really excited to learn more about Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda! And I LOVED the excerpts of her actual writings in the back.

CW: Grief, slavery, racism, misogyny, attempted forced marriage
Profile Image for Noninuna.
846 reviews35 followers
May 25, 2020
4.5 stars

Another history lesson for me. This time the story was told not about the oppressed but their supporter. Brilliant perspective tho I was expecting a longer & more refined ending but it's based on a real person's life, so...

956 reviews
December 30, 2020
I loved this book. The words are beautiful, as is the story. I had never heard of the Cuban abolitionist Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, so I also felt like I was introduced to an amazing woman. She had a lot to say about equality between races, genders, and classes. It was amazing and beautiful and inspiring.
Profile Image for Sandy.
384 reviews3 followers
June 19, 2020
Great ML non-fiction in verse. (Clean)
Profile Image for Mary.
55 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2017
This was a beautiful verse novel, telling an imaginative account of the historical Cuban abolitionist Avellaneda. Left me wanting to know more about her life.
Profile Image for Nicole.
550 reviews27 followers
April 29, 2020
This was a really good historical fiction poetry book by a Cuban American about a cuban abolitionist and her mentor, a cuban rebel poet. What I really loved the most is that there was so much history, culture, especially for a young adult/juvenile book. I recommend it especially for younger readers.
Profile Image for Raf.
21 reviews
March 21, 2018
Margarita Engle, or Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda speaks about her own experiences through the main character of the book named "Tula". Engle was a fierce abolitionist and a feminist who lamented the fact that women in 19th century Cuba were not warranted the right to education which was socially shunned as something that made women unattractive. In her poetry, Engle speaks trough Tula about being a caged bird, lacking the freedom to roam and expand her horizons by learning and expressing her ideas. She often talks about being bored and not fulfilled while leaving in quite comfortable conditions on a plantation. The Lightning Dreamer is a great resource for middle school and high school students who are learning about various abolition movements, cultural expectations of women in Cuba, as well as rhyming poetry that speaks of frustration, longing for true love, and freedom.
Profile Image for Amanda Lemes.
62 reviews7 followers
December 22, 2017
"The Lightning Dreamer" é uma ficção histórica sobre Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, uma escritora cubana que, na primeira metade do século XIX, escrevia sobre a abolição da escravidão e alguns temas feministas. Basicamente, escrevia sobre igualdade e liberdade.

"If she calls me masculine, I wear
my best lace, flutter a flowery silk fan,
and keep myself silent, wishing
that I could openly state my truth:
I don’t want to be a man,
just a woman
with a voice."

É lindo ler isso e saber que, na vida real, Avellaneda não se manteve em silêncio e escreveu, inclusive, uma das primeiras novelas abolicionistas na língua espanhola. É de encher de orgulho também saber que seu trabalho foi reconhecido e obteve grande sucesso mesmo tratando de tópicos controversos - não só para a época, visto que até hoje permanecem as lutas por maior igualdade para as mulheres e contra o racismo.
Depois dessa introdução que "The Lightning Dreamer" ofereceu sobre a vida e a obra de Avellaneda - mesmo que com uma pitada de ficção -, mal posso esperar para ler o que essa mulher incrível escreveu! ♥
Profile Image for Kathy D'Amato.
2 reviews1 follower
May 9, 2017
Read this with my first grade grandson and it led to some wonderful conversations about social justice. I would highly recommend it as an introduction to those hard discussions.
9 reviews
February 11, 2018
First picking up this book, I knew I was interested in poetry. I saw the title and was not sure what to expect. As I started reading, I learned that it was about a women's right to an education, to be treated equally and her right to choosing her own marriage. This was different than other poetry that I had read recently.

I read about a girl named Tula who loved books, education and wanted equality. Living in Cuba, she would be seen as a rebel if this was known. I learned a lot about what women had to live with in the past and their journey to equality that is still going on today. Her mother who she called Mama had gone against her father's wishes and married a man she loved. After learning the affects on her family, her mother wanted to keep the ideas of books, love and an education away from Tula. The Nuns were the only women who had access to books. They would take Tula in and allow her to read for hours. While dealing with this oppression, Tula would use the "enchanted paper" that her brother secretly gave her and write poetry and magical stories. She read them to the orphans and her brother. These stories helped her fall in love with writing and made her realize how unfair she was being treated.

My favorite aspect of these poems was hearing what her peers thought of this. Some thought she was crazy, some were scared for her but the most important part was that some were inspired by her work. I thought it was amazing to see other perspectives and how other women saw this inequality.

There were not many parts that I disliked from this collection. One thing that I would have liked is to see more of her poems that her brother loved so much. Though some were shown, I liked how they were a metaphor for her life and what she was going through.

Profile Image for Amy Rae.
912 reviews40 followers
December 13, 2014
I'm wobbling between three and four stars for this one. It's a quick, powerful story of a fascinating figure from Cuban history. I learned a great deal, and I loved the way Engle brought 19th-century Cuba too life. Tula's relationship with the family servant (previously slave), Caridad, was drawn out especially well.

The main thing that bugs me about it is Engle's choice to write poems from the points of view of "the nuns" and "the orphans" as a group. They feel generalized, and considering how important Tula believes it is that each orphan should get to speak in her plays, it seems like a weird choice to make them speak in a single, agreeable chorus. (The nuns, meanwhile, felt like they were mostly there for exposition; they didn't get much character. They tell us they're allowed to read books other women may not, but they don't tell us how they feel about that, or how they feel about Tula and the other girls under their tutelage. How difficult must it be to watch them, knowing the small freedoms they can be offered at the convent will disappear as soon as their families marry them off to men they hardly know?)

I would have preferred to see Engle create an individual voice from each of the groups and give it more depth. Alternatively, I'd have liked to see their poetry remain spoken in a group but have less concordance. If it was made clear in the text that not all the orphans or all the nuns felt the same way about X or Y, I wouldn't have found it as much at odds with the general emphasis on individual choice.

There are places where the poetry could have been a little more immediate, too. For instance, I feel like a poem about slipping through the streets to visit secret poetry meetings could be powerful and suspenseful. Tula's brother, Manuel, tells us about doing just that in such a removed way, however, that I didn't feel the danger as strongly as I think I could have. It was clear from the poem's vantage point that it already happened and everyone was in the clear. That doesn't make for a gripping poem, in my opinion.

I'm gonna go with three stars for now, I think. It's definitely worth a read, especially if you've never heard of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda before now. But I can see places where I think it could use some improvement nonetheless.
Profile Image for La Coccinelle.
2,243 reviews3,561 followers
May 17, 2014
Verse novels are one of my favourite discoveries of the past few years. Historical fiction seems to lend itself well to this style of writing, which is probably why so many of the verse novels I've read have been set in the past. This book is no exception. It's about a real girl, an early feminist and abolitionist, who lived in Cuba and helped change attitudes about slavery and marriage.

This book was beautifully written. I kept highlighting passages as I read, ones that struck me as particularly beautiful or meaningful. Tula's voice really comes across on the page, illuminating a life in 1820s Cuba that may be unfamiliar to most readers of YA fiction. I bristled against the 19th-century attitudes that drove her mother and grandfather to want to sell her off like a piece of property, rather than letting her choose her own husband. Her mother, in particular, was infuriating. She'd married for love, and then seemed to think that it was up to her daughter to bring wealth back into the family with an arranged marriage!

My only real complaint with this book was the changing points of view. While most of the "chapters" are told from Tula's point of view, there are a few throughout the book from various other characters. While I don't have a problem with that in theory, in practice it seemed a little bit odd because there was no difference between the characters' voices. For example, Caridad (the family's housekeeper) spoke just as eloquently in flowery language as Tula did... and Caridad was supposed to be an illiterate former slave. But this is a minor quibble and doesn't detract that much from the story.

The historical notes at the end of the book are just as fascinating as the main story itself. Tula had a very interesting life, one that was probably quite different from many women's lives at that time. All in all, this is a beautifully written verse novel that should appeal to fans of historical fiction.

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