'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 11 March 2018

Review: My Brigadista Year

It's 1961 in Cuba.

Fidel Castro has overthrown Batista and declared war against illiteracy (among other things).

Thirteen-year-old Lora volunteers to be one of Castro's literacy champions, much to her parents' consternation but she is determined to go, despite the fact that there is no guarantee she will be safe.

Lora talks directly to me as I read so it feels like I'm sitting in her pocket as the action unfolds.

From the emotional wrench of saying goodbye to the strangeness of training camp and on to the distant hills where there is no power and little in the way of creature comforts, Lora shares all.

I fell in love with the simple life and ways of the campesinos and was chilled to the bone when her host house was attacked. I also learned how harsh life can be when basic medical support is far away.

I really didn't know anything about Cuba's history until I read My Brigadista Year. What little I thought I knew was anti-Castro. My Brigadista Year offers an extraordinary opportunity to see this first year under Fidel Castro in a completely new light.

Regardless of the many negative ramifications of Fidel's Socialist rule, his 250,000 volunteers (more than 100,000 of whom were between 10 and 19 years of age) taught more than 700,000 Cubans to read and write in a single year. Cuba's literacy rate has been above 99% ever since – the highest in the world.

But something even more magical happened in that Brigadista year. In the words of one volunteer, 'I taught the campesinos how to read and write, and they taught me how to be a person.'

Title: My Brigadista Year
Author: Katherine Patterson
Publisher: Candlewick Press, $ 24.99, (PB $14.99)
Publication Date: 1 February 2018 (Paperback due 5 April 2018)
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9780763695088
For ages:  9 years +
Type: Middle Grade Fiction