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Before We Were Free

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  5,464 ratings  ·  895 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.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Laurel Leaf Library (first published August 13th 2002)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,464 ratings  ·  895 reviews

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Dec 13, 2015 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 ...more
Feb 12, 2012 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
Edward K
Nov 14, 2013 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 ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting historical fiction novel based on the authors childhood that takes place in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's during Trujillo's regime. Even though it takes place over 50 years ago the story is still very relatable today. It reminded me a lot of the current civil unrest that is going on in Venezuela.

Popsugar Challenge 2019 - An "own voices" book
Crystal Bandel
Oct 07, 2013 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
Kavitha Sivakumar
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
>>What good is to escape captivity only to be imprisoned in your own misery?
>>It is the responsibility of those who survive the struggle for freedom to give testimony. To tell the story in order to keep alive the memory of the dead.

This is my second book of this author, the first being "In the time of the butterflies". Actually, this book is in some ways a continuation/sequel to the book "In the time of the butterflies" only told from the view point of 12 year old girl Anita.

It is at
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actual Rating: 4.5 stars

Reread (September 2019):
This book was just as hard-hitting and amazing the second time around. Definitely a must-read.

April 2018:
I really enjoyed this book! This book takes place in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s and gives insight into Trujillo’s dictatorship through the eyes of a 12 year old. I loved (but also was somewhat saddened) by how innocent and naive the beginning of the narrative was and how increasingly aware, dark, and serious it became throughout later
May 24, 2015 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.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow...This is so amazing. A YA book about living under the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic.
CJ Baroni
Jan 27, 2016 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 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
Peter Gilbert

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez was a great read. This book because it was told from the perspective of a kid, made it easy for me to relate and understand what was happening. The book is realistic fiction, based in the Dominican Republic and New York. Papi, Mami, Tio Toni play the main roles in the story while it is narrated by Anita, the youngest sibling. Anita has two other siblings; Mundin and Lucinda, who also play big roles throughout the book. Throughout the book we see what it was

Adriana Villagomez
Jan 19, 2015 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 ...more
Anthony Cho
Nov 14, 2013 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
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This book tells an intriguing story of a young girl growing up in the Dominican Republic during the 1960's. I enjoyed this book, in fact, I couldn't put it down. Her story is so detailed and intricate you feel as if you are there with her experiencing the confusion and hostility. Being an adolescant, she is out of the loop on most of what is happening around her, no one informs her of anything and she is told not to ask questions. Seeing as the book is told from her point of view, the audience ...more
William L
Nov 14, 2013 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
Brandon Genawese
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book, as it teaches a very important lesson to us all. The main antagonist is a dictator(El Jefe), and tries to take control of the Dominican Republic. Throughout the book the protagonist (Anita) endures a life that is totally out of her control. She has to live her life by the rules according to one person. The journey is both captivating with many dark, but also lighter moments. However it was very apparent that in the story there is no freedom in the DR like ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone.
While this piece falls into the young adult genre it is a look at the impact of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. It explores the nuances of family and the multi-generational nature of the family in question. Too it speaks to the island culture, and in part contrasts it with the American culture.

It was educational as well as entertaining.
Dec 15, 2014 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.
Marten Wennik
Feb 06, 2012 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.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It was really good, I read it a while ago, so I don't really remember all the details, but from what I do it was fantastic!
Oct 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A story of a girl Anita and her family during the dictatorship of Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo and their fight for freedom and the losses they incurred in getting it.
Thomas Stull
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The novel, Before We Were Free, by Julia Alvarez is one of thrill, excitement, and sadness to help the reader see through the eyes of a twelve year-old girl. Ms. Alvarez currently resides in Middlebury, Vermont, but was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. However, when she was ten years old, she spent her years in New York, New York. Ms. Alvarez currently resides in a peaceful and tranquil area, whereas in her childhood years, it was not like the calm town she lives in today. No, but she ...more
Jun Lee
Before We Were Free is a historical fiction written by Julia Alvarez. This book makes readers think more critically with implied messages and historical background. Before We Were Free is narrated by an 11 years old girl, Anita whose perspective gradually changes as she becomes more mature and undergoes tragic situations that most children do not often experience. This book is based on the Dominican Republic’s history - how Rafael Trujillo ruled the country with his autocratic ruthless power for ...more
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 ...more
Slater Whitehead
The book Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez, was a fantastic book. It shows a great point of view of a young girl living in the Dominican Republic while there is a dictatorship run by Rafael Trujillo. It shows how much fear was in the country at this time and how bad rafael Trujillo was. It shows how the young girl Anita viewed all of this as it was happening. Being able to see this through the eyes of young Anita makes you think more about how families had to deal with the dictatorship at ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found myself really into this historical fiction by Julia Alvarez, Before We Were Free, and felt empathetic to the characters. Sometimes I even needed to remind myself that this is a fictional book when reading. The story about how Anita, the main character lived under great politic pressure with her family and grew up to be a mature young lady both physically and mentally through a series of event is fascinating. Besides that, as a reader, I see the simplified version of how innocent people ...more
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
In 1960, at the age of 10, author Julia Alvarez fled the Dominican Republican in the company of her parents, who had collaborated in a plot to overthrow the longstanding dictator, Rafael Trujillo. While Before We Were Free is not a strictly autobiographical account of these events, it is clearly influenced by them. Like Alvarez, the novel's narrator is a young girl coming of age during the final years of the dictatorship. Over the course of the novel, she realizes that the man whose portrait ...more
Kade Goldberg
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
In the novel Before We Were Free, this Drama/Thriller brought you through the peaks and valleys of Anita De La Torre’s life. The author Julia Alvarez is a writer we have read from before as she talks about her experience immigrating to the U.S. She also, lived in the Dominican where she lived as a young girl and quickly she learned that the United States was not everything she dreamed of. Anita started out a young girl admiring the dictator of her country the Dominican Republic, but by the end ...more
Malcolm Bussey
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2nd-book
Reading Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez was the first time I have learned about the Dominican Republic and it opened up my eyes. I haven't learned much about Central America growing up in school, maybe just a few times on the news, so I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book. In my life growing up in Canada, we mostly just worried about our country first of all but got to know quite a bit of what was going on in the US and Great Britain. Giving myself a new perspective ...more
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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