Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Red Umbrella
Gonzales, Christina. 2010. THE RED UMBRELLA. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780375861901 [Suggested Grade Levels 7-12]
Lucia and her brother live an idyllic life in Cuba in 1961 until the revolution occurs. Lucia's parents, who do not support the revolution, send her and Frankie to Miami with a group of children after their dad has been stripped of his job and arrested. After a few weeks in a refugee camp, the two are sent to Nebraska to live with the Baxters as foster children. Lucia grows from a frightened child into a self-sufficient teenager in this coming-of-age story. Chapter titles are newspaper headlines dealing with Cuba.
With Castro's failing health and new demands to restore relations with Cuba, this novel gives readers a portrait of what it was like to live in Cuba during the revolution, why so many Cubans immigrated to the United States, and what struggles they faced. While the book at times is perhaps overly sentimental and has a "happy ever after" ending, it is still a snapshot of what it was like to live in Cuba at the time of the revolution and the adjustments that so many of the immigrants faced and is based on experience’s from Gonzales’s own family.
Pair with COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles for a study of the 1960s, the Cuban Revolution, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Use with current events about Castro and Cuba to help students understand the historical background of Cuban/American relations.
Other books set in Cuba:
Eire, Carlos. WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA: MEMOIRS OF A CUBAN BOY. ISBN 0743246411
Engle, Margarita. THE SURRENDER TREE: POEMS OF CUBA’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM. ISBN 9780312608712
Flores-Galbis, Enrique. 90 MILES TO HAVANA. ISBN 9781596431683
By Janet Hilbun