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Before We Were Free


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Gr 6 Up-In How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Algonquin Books, 1991), Julia Alvarez used her own experiences as a refugee from the Dominican Republic to create a collection of stories about coming to the United States. The Time of the Butterflies (Algonquin, 1994) is her fictionalized account of the revolution that occurred in her homeland in the middle of the 20th century. Before We Were Free (Knopf, 2002) provides a realistic story about what it might have been like for a young cousin of the Garcia girls who did not flee the Dominican Republic to live through the turbulent dictatorship El Jeffe. The account is related from the viewpoint of Anita, an observant but naive 12-year-old upper middle class girl. For the de la Torre family, the weeks following the Garcias' departure from their island home are filled with peculiar strangers, mysterious adult activities, strained social affairs and, ultimately, a horrible sojourn in hiding. Alvarez's protagonist is credible for her age, and the events that she witnesses-including El Jeffe's sexual advances on a slightly older girl, her own father's involvement with the revolution, and the terrors of living in hiding-are presented realistically. Alvarez reads her own work here, giving Anita a clear and determined voice. This is an essential addition to audiobook collections in schools and public libraries, both for curriculum support and as an engaging book enjoyment. Both the story and the performance are deeply satisfying and will spark interest in a variety of social sciences, as well as in Alvarez's related books.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

In what PW called "pitch-perfect narration," in a starred review, a 12-year old girl living in the Dominican Republic in 1960 relates the terrors of her country's regime and the attempt to overthrow Trujillo's dictatorship. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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