My Brigadista Year
When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history.
Two-time Newbery Medalist Paterson turns her attention to 1961 Cuba in the story of 13-year-old Lora Llera, who volunteers to become part of Fidel Castro's literacy campaign to her parents' dismay. She and hundreds of other volunteers of all ages spend months living with farmers in the countryside, working alongside them during the day and teaching them to read and write at night. (Castro intended to have a fully literate population within a year's time, and the brigadistas were an important part of that plan.) Through Lora's na ve but openhearted perspective, Paterson weaves in details about Cuban history and the events that led to the overthrow of the Batista regime and the rise of Communism, though she skirts many of the political hot-button issues that surround Castro's rule. An author's note and timeline fill in additional details about Cuba's past, but Paterson's story is without political agenda, focusing instead on an improbable (and successful) literacy campaign and how it dramatically expands the world of one sheltered but determined girl. Ages 10 14.)