In this powerful companion to her award-winning memoir Enchanted Air, Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle recounts her teenage years during the turbulent 1960s.
Margarita Engle’s childhood straddled two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely, dream-soaked reality of Los Angeles. But the revolution has transformed Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, no longer reachable in real life. Margarita longs to travel the world, yet before she can become independent, she’ll have to start high school.
Then the shock waves of war reach America, rippling Margarita’s plans in their wake. Cast into uncertainty, she must grapple with the philosophies of peace, civil rights, freedom of expression, and environmental protection. Despite overwhelming circumstances, she finds solace and empowerment through her education. Amid the challenges of adolescence and a world steeped in conflict, Margarita finds hope beyond the struggle, and love in the most unexpected of places.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Racial insensitivity
Booklist (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Engle chronicles her high school, college, and post-college years—turbulent times for her, for the country, and for the world. She dreams of traveling to India, a place she imagines to be as enchanted as Cuba, where she can no longer visit due to the Cold War crisis. The poems in this memoir are terse, filled with the bleak imaginings of a teenager seeking emotional resonance. Despite the temporal difference, contemporary youth will find parallels with Engle as she seeks connection with a peer group, a close friend, or a lover—someone with whom she can make sense of her context. This companion to her award-winning Enchanted Air (2015) packs a historical wallop with references to Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Second Wave Feminism, Watergate, Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia, and more. Engle lets all of this consume her, and she drifts for a while, living precariously. The memoir ends on a positive note, as she finds her place with nature, poetry, and a life partner.
Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2019)
Young People’s Poet Laureate Engle (A Dog Named Haku, 2018, etc.) explores her tumultuous teenage and early adult years during the equally turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s. This companion memoir to her award-winning Enchanted Air (2015) is written mostly in free verse with a spot of haiku and tanka. This is a lonely dreamer’s tale of a wayward yet resourceful young woman who zigzags to self-discovery amid the Vietnam War, Delano grape strike, moon landing, and other key historical events. Dreaming of travel to far-off lands but without the financial resources to do so, she embarks on a formal and informal educational journey that takes her from Los Angeles to Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, New York City, and back west again. With Spanish interspersed throughout, Engle speaks truthfully about the judgment she has faced from those who idealized Castro’s Cuba and the struggle to keep her Spanish alive after being cut off from her beloved mother’s homeland due to the Cold War. Employing variations in line breaks, word layout, and font size effectively, Engle’s pithy verses together read as a cohesive narrative that exudes honesty and bravery. While younger readers may not recognize some of the cultural references, themes of dating, drugs, and difficulty in college will resonate widely. Finding one’s path is not a linear process; thankfully Engle has the courage to offer herself as an example. Hopeful, necessary, and true. (author’s note) (Poetry/memoir. 13-adult)
About the Author
Margarita Engle is the national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN Literary Award for Young Adult Literature winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture book Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She continues to visit Cuba as often as she can.
Her website is www.margaritaengle.com/
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