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My Brigadista Year

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,029 ratings  ·  245 reviews
In an engrossing historical novel, the Newbery Medal-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia follows a young Cuban teenager as she volunteers for Fidel Castro's national literacy campaign and travels into the impoverished countryside to teach others how to read.

When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro's army of young literacy teach
Hardcover, 198 pages
Published October 16th 2017 by Candlewick Press (first published October 10th 2017)
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 ·  1,029 ratings  ·  245 reviews

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Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Paterson beautifully captures teenage idealism in a moment of radical social change. But me being me, I have to say this: Cuba is to be commended for this movement, which brought literacy rates to nearly 100%. I have two colleagues who are Cuban exiles, and they say the same thing. However, I couldn’t stop hearing my Cuban manager’s voice as I read: “Yes, everyone in Cuba can read, but they can’t read what they want.” So hooray for the literacy brigades, but let’s hope for a free Cuba, too.
Kristy Cooper
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't think this is a book that would have gotten published if Katherine Paterson hadn't already won a bunch of Newbery's and National Book Awards. Patterson shares the world of the brigadista movement in Cuba in an interesting and age appropriate way. When 13-year-old Lora volunteers to join Castro's rural literacy corps, she learns how to humbly help others and meet people where they're at. It's easy to take for granted the privilege of growing up learning to read and this book will make you ...more
Ms. Yingling
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
E ARC from Netgalley

Lora's family is poor, but has a decent life in Havana in the late 1950s. Lora wants desperately to go to a better school, but her parents don't have money to send her. Her abuela, who is very forward thinking, offers Lora jewelry that she was saving for her and says she may sell it and use the money for school. Lora does. When she is 13, Lora decides to join the Literacy Brigadistas, which was an idea of Fidel Castro's to raise the literacy rate and help the poorer, less edu
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Originally posted at Log Cabin Library

My Brigadista Year, tells the story of 13-year old Lora who volunteers to join a governmental army of literacy teachers tasked with teaching its citizens to read and write in Havana Cuba during the 1960's. Before Lora could enlist, she had to get her parents to sign a permission slip, which they were very hesitant to do. As the eldest of three siblings, Lora was partially responsible for watching over the younger children and her parents were concerned for
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating story about an event I had no knowledge about whatsoever: Cuba’s year of defeating illiteracy in 1961.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those Who Don't Know Much About Cuba
My Brigadista Year is set in 1961 Cuba when Fidel Castro inspired volunteers to bring literacy to the entire country. We experience life in Cuba through the eyes of thirteen year old Lora as she joins volunteers in the campaign for nationwide literacy despite a volatile political environment. Spoiler Alert { But Not Really A Spoiler Alert Because This is History }: During this campaign literacy increased in Cuba from 60% to 96% in one year which is pretty phenomenal. No other country has ever ac ...more
I thought this book was excellent. Absolutely fascinating bit of history to learn about, and it was done so well. I will look forward to recommending this for middle grade and high school readers, not to mention adults as well.

This covers an interesting historical time of revolution in a package suitable for young/middle grade readers.

There is a certain lack of emotion throughout, and a shying away from the more serious elements of the Brigadista experience, but again, maybe this lends itself well to younger readers, as it never goes into great detail about the atrocities taking place.
Kate Olson
Oct 08, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish
I skimmed this for acquisition purposes pre-release and my impression is that it may make a great read aloud or book club pick for middle school, but will definitely need adult support for the majority of readers. It is very history-heavy and those without background knowledge of Cuba and its history will struggle to place the story in context. That's not saying it's not a quality book, but it's not going to be a fly-off-the-shelves kid favorite like BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. It's very much a "teach ...more
Christine Fitzgerald
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Things I did not know about Cuba before reading this book.
#1- Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, 99.75%. The USA is 86%.
#2- In 1961 Fidel Castro’s idea of turning his beloved country around was literacy, so he campaigned for well read students as young as 12 to go out and teach those who didn’t know how to read.

This is an inspiring story about a 13 year old girl who sets out to be a literacy teacher in order to save her country.
Liz Derouet
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, a topic I knew very little about. Thirteen year old Lora volunteers to help Fidel Castro's team of teachers make his country fully literate. My full review will appear on my blog soon.

Jennifer Sullivan
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
[I received a digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

From the award-winning author of "Bridge To Terabithia" and "Jacob Have I Loved", this fictional memoir is set during and shortly after the Cuban revolution, as seen through 13-year old Lora's eyes. While now most of the Western world views Fidel Castro as an evil dictator, at the time he was seen as a liberator by many of the Cuban people and the atmosphere was very hopeful. One of Castro's goals was in
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Lora and her family live fairly comfortably in Havana, Cuba. They aren't wealthy but Lora is able to go to a very good school in the city. Then Baptiste is overthrown and Fidel Castro comes in to power. One of Castro's initiatives is the quest to end illiteracy in Cuba. He recruits young people to be teachers in the country. Lora's family doesn't want her to do this, but she is determined to be a brigadista and do her part for her country. She is accepted into the program and heads off to traini ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lora is a young girl who, at 13, decides to volunteer for Fidel Castro's literacy campaign to raise Cuba's literacy rate in a year. Lora struggles initially, but through the challenges is able to successfully teach the "students" under her tutelage. Despite my lack of knowledge of Cuba and the rocky history between Cuba and the US, I think this was a remarkable book. ...more
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
I really enjoyed this. This is nicely paced historical fiction about the literacy campaign in Cuba in the 1960's. It's told from the perspective of a 14 year old girl who volunteers as a teacher for the campaign.

Parents and teachers will love the historical notes at the end of the book as well as the listed source material.

Kids will love that it's an adventure story that moves along nicely with enough suspense to hopefully keep kids reading. I really enjoyed reading more fiction based on Cuban
Linda V
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 7-16-12-17
Thank you Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

When Castro came into power he created a program to bring literacy to the entire country. With the help of volunteers he accomplishes this goal. The amazing part is that the volunteers were children, mostly ages thirteen to college age, but sometimes younger. All committed to a year, living away from their families, sometimes in dangerous situations. Katherine Paterson brings to life this little-known period of Cuban history. Alth
The best thing about this book was the untold story of history. I had no idea about the brigadistas even though I knew about Castro's mission to make Cuba a literate country. It was a unique story and I loved a highlight to the Cuban revolution. It is often spoken about with such negativity that it was interesting to see a positive change this revolution brought about.

That said, I wanted more. I wanted SO MUCH MORE. I thought this could have been expanded and delved deeper into the story. I real
Amber Webb
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My Brigadista Year by Paterson was an exceptional middle grade novel about the Cuban literacy crisis and a young girl's involvement in the solution. Children should read this novel to learn about and understand that challenges Cuba faced during this time and what children were asked to do for their country. In America, this book is an important read for children to see that no matter their age, they can and should stand up for what they believe in. The power of children is clear and they need to ...more
Mary Louise Sanchez
Lora is thirteen in 1961 when she learns her country's new leader, Fidel Castro, wants to combat illiteracy in Cuba.

Lora joins the Literacy Brigadista despite her parents' objections to the dangers involved, but Lora's aubela sides with Lora, who after receiving training, goes to the countryside to teach farmers and their families to read.

My perceptions of Fidel Castro were somewhat elevated by this story. We in the U.S. preceived him only as a dictator, but he was Cuba's literacy liberator.
Excellent read and good view of history. I grew up during the Cuban missile crisis and it is interesting to me to see the other side of the story. This story does not focus on that, but there is a good timeline at the end of the book that goes into a bit more detail about the actual historical events. The focus of this story is the literacy campaign - and the methods used for its success. It is also a coming of age story, which seems to be a favorite theme for me.
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley
Wow! What a powerful book. I don't know much about Cuba's history, but the author's note and timeline at the end of this book helped fill me in on the basics. I couldn't put this down, historical fiction lovers will enjoy this book. I would recommend this to fifth-eighth graders. ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
How does Katherine Paterson do this at 85??...continue to write fascinating stories... and I have to give it four stars as the main character becomes a brigadista for literacy!! some political Cuban history along with a good plot..
Jen Petro-Roy
3.5 stars. I knew nothing about this period--so fascinating.
Alex  Baugh
Feb 05, 2018 rated it liked it
It's 1961, just a few years after the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries, when a call went out to young Cubans age 10-19 to become part of a volunteer literacy brigade. The idea was for these young people to go into the rural parts of their country where illiteracy was high and teach the campesinos there to read and write.

Living in Havana with her parents, her brothers, and her abuela, Lora Diaz Llero, 13, also hears the call for volunteers an
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: j-books
I really liked the book, I LOVE the concept. I had no idea Cuba has a literacy rate of 99.8! Astounding, considering all the challenges this tiny country has faced.

It really got me thinking if a Cuban style literacy campaign would well in my home country India. Take a year off and go into the villages to teach. Granted the society is much more complicated and entrenched than in Cuba. But what if? Just thinking about it is so exciting. Education I believe is slowly being recognized as the only cu
Set in 1961 on the island of Cuba, this historical fiction novel tells the story of 13-year-old Lora who lives in the large city of Havana but wants to go into the countryside to help rural families learn to read. Her parents reluctantly allow her to join the corp of "brigadistas" - hundreds of young volunteers who were recruited for Fidel Castro's year-long campaign to improve literacy across the entire country. It's a fascinating piece of history that I knew nothing about (the campaign was eno ...more
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Kristy Cooper's review which starts with speculation about the possibility of this book being published if it had not been written by a Newberry/National Book award winner added to my appreciation of everything I have read by Katherine Paterson made it an easy call to move this Juvenile novel up to the top of my want-to-read list. The story of Lora, one of the 100,000 young volunteers in the 1961 Cuban literacy campaign, is told via her journal of her year teaching farm families to read while le ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
My Brigadista Year
By Katherine Paterson
Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book - all opinions are my own.
I can barely remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and I’m quite sure most of you weren’t even dreamed about at that time! My vague memory is of my parents (who rarely watched television) and my aunt and uncle being glued to the set while my cousins and I were allowed to play with very little supervision. I remember the murmurs and the fear on their faces. It was s
I had no idea this was a thing until I read this book. And this is precisely why everyone should read as much as they possibly can.

As an American, all I've ever heard is how awful Fidel Castro was, and how terrible life was for his people, and how we as Americans couldn't and wouldn't support their economy, government, way of life, or people in any way.

There are always multiple sides to any story. And Paterson sheds light on an oft-neglected side in this book. Lora's voice is easy to read, and
PSMS Librarian
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lora is a 13-year-old girl who defies the gender roles of her time and culture as she embarks on her year-long adventure as a brigadista. What is a brigadista? This was a new concept to me as I knew very little about Cuba during the time of the revolution. I learned that this was a literacy campaign started by the government with an aim to make every Cuban citizen literate. The text explains the political implications of this literacy initiative as well as the dangerous climate of the time. This ...more
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From author's website:

People are always asking me questions I don't have answers for. One is, "When did you first know that you wanted to become a writer?" The fact is that I never wanted to be a writer, at least not when I was a child, or even a young woman. Today I want very much to be a writer. But when I was ten, I wanted to be either a movie star or a missionary. When I was twenty, I wanted t

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