Just look at all the medals on this book! I learned so much about a small sliver of Cuban history (1850-1898), a subject I had never really thought about or pursued, and it made me realize how much I don’t know of the suffering and triumphs in this world. The format, history in verse, drew me in, along with the beautiful writing. The short poems, rarely longer than a page, use spare details to paint pictures:
We bring wanted posters from the cities
with pictures drawn by artists,
pictures of men with filed teeth
and women with tribal scars,
And later, this description:
People imagine that all slaves are dark,
but the indentured Chinese slaves run away too,
into the mangrove swamps,
where they can fish, and spear frogs,
and hunt crocodiles . . .
Arching over these precise poems is the story of a girl hiding in caves and healing the wounded, and Lieutenant Death who hunts down escaped slaves. Reading this made me want more, and I have since become a huge Margarita Engle fan.