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

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  4,643 Ratings  ·  767 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 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.

Using the strength an
Audio, 0 pages
Published July 13th 2004 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published January 1st 2002)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow...This is so amazing. A YA book about living under the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic.
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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

Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 e ...more
CJ Baroni
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 han ...more
Jun Lee
Feb 02, 2018 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 thi ...more
Thomas Stull
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 s ...more
Ryan Huntley
This novel by Julia Alverez wasn't the hardest thing too read but carried a lot of meaning. As mentioned many times in class this book had lots of layers. This story intrigued me from the start. America slides this time period in the D.R. under the rug in many causes, and it was interesting to learn about the darker side of our past. With little background research, we learned that America put El Jefe in power and was now intervening in the D.R. government again. This intrigued me because it sho ...more
Malcolm Bussey
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kade Goldberg
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 l ...more
Phil Jensen
This book was a bit scattered. Who would like it?

Dominicans Any Dominican family is likely to have experiences of the Trujillo regime, and would be interested in this narrative of its downfall.

Survivors of DictatorshipsIn her afterward, Alvarez explains that the narrative is designed to represent the general experience of Latin American dictatorship. I'm not so sure about that. The story seems specific to the Dominican Republic in ways that similar stories by Graham Greene and Margarita Engle do
Jenny - Book Sojourner
I chose this for my high school world literature co-op and it ended up being a great read for not just the teens, but for me as well. The writing style is young but the historical themes were more appropriate for high school students. We had a great discussion about the Trujillo dictatorship, the Dominican Republic, the Mirabal sisters, as well as the story itself, and it made us dig deeper into our historical and geographical research.
Christian Moore
The book Before we were free written by Julia Alvarez is a magnificent novel. The main character is a girl named Anita. Anita de la Torre never really thought about her freedom while living in the Dominican Republic. But by her 12th birthday in 1960 everything seemed to change pretty fast. Most of her relatives moved to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace. Also government’s secret police(SIM) terrorized the only family she had left. That is because of the disliking of ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before We Were Free is a historical fiction novel, by Julia Alvarez, about what life was like For a girl named Anita in the Dominican Republic under the rule of "El Jefe" or general Trujillo. Before I started reading I did what nobody should do I "judged a book by its cover." Not literally, but when I saw that it was historical fiction, I thought it was going to be pretty boring to read, but I thought wrong. Just in the first chapter, the story started to speed up and grab my attention. After sh ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This slim, semi-autobiographical work by Alvarez ("In the Time of the Butterflies") doesn't advertise itself as a 12 & up book. I'm glad it didn't, or I might not have picked it up. The story, set in the early-'60s, tells the story of a 12-year-old Dominican girl whose family is involved in the resistance against the brutal Trujillo regime. It's a wonderful book (parts are written in the form of a diary), maintaining an Anne Frank-type balance between the narrator's political awakening and t ...more
Ellis DeMars
Feb 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young Adults
Recommended to Ellis by: Marten
Before We Were Free , a realistic fiction story by Julia Alvarez was a good but not great book. Alvarez, now 67 years old and living in New York City, also wrote In the Time of the Butterflies and How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay . The plot revolves around a young girl named Anita De La Torres who lives in the Dominican Republic in the early 1960s. The dictator Rafael Trujillo who was referred to as El Jefe, was the main antagonist in the story even though he had little to no dialogue through ...more
Matthew Hynes
Before we were free is a fictional and historical novel all in one with a little bit of a thriller feeling to it. Julia Alvarez tells this book in a thirteen year old girl hint of view, named Anita. Thought the book El Jefe the dictator in the Dominican Republic played a very large roll in the plot. Also the three butterfly sister are mentioned in correlation a similar accident in the book. This novel is extremely accurate with the history and timeline of the events that happen throughout the bo ...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 o ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
HMSA Summer Reading: Book Review: Antes de ser libres 1 1 Oct 31, 2017 09:28AM  
My Book Review 1 3 Mar 18, 2016 07:04PM  
wat you think about this book?? 14 58 May 08, 2014 09:44AM  
ENG 580 Spring 2014: Choice Book 3: Before We Were Free 1 2 Mar 03, 2014 06:02PM  
  • The Tequila Worm
  • The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom
  • Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida
  • Just in Case
  • Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart
  • Cuba 15
  • Breaking Through
  • Frida: Viva La Vida! Long Live Life!
  • My Name is Gabito / Me llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez (English, Multilingual and Spanish Edition)
  • My Abuelita
  • The Pot That Juan Built
  • The Storyteller's Candle/La velita de los cuentos
  • Los Gatos Black on Halloween
  • Call Me Maria
  • Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez
  • Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale
  • The Composition
  • Colibri
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...

Young Adult Deals

  • Things I Should Have Known
    $9.99 $2.99
  • These Vicious Masks
    $7.09 $2.99
  • The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen, #1)
    $4.99 $2.49
  • Queens of Geek
    $7.80 $2.99
  • The Lovely Reckless
    $7.80 $2.99
  • Cruel Beauty (Cruel Beauty Universe, #1)
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Door Within (The Door Within, #1)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Love Fortunes and Other Disasters
    $7.09 $2.99
  • Crash (Crash, #1)
    $4.49 $1.99
  • The Memory of Things
    $7.80 $2.99
  • Julie of the Wolves
    $6.24 $1.99
  • Love, Lies & Spies
    $7.80 $2.99
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Allegedly
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Unspoken (The Vampire Diaries: The Salvation, # 2)
    $3.99 $0.99
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama (Ala Notable Children's Books. Middle Readers)
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Been Here All Along
    $7.09 $2.99
  • The Way to Game the Walk of Shame
    $7.09 $2.99
  • Bad Boy
    $7.74 $1.99
  • Season of Fire (The Remnants, #2)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Glass Spare (The Glass Spare, #1)
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Where She Went (If I Stay #2)
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Haunting Season
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Season of Wonder (The Remnants, #1)
    $7.99 $2.99
  • If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)
    $9.99 $2.99