Bookshelf: The Surrender Tree

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,

new slaves.

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.

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