The Firefly Letters (Margarita Engle) – Review

The firefly letters : a suffragette's journey to CubaThe Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
Age: 8-12 years old
Genre: Poetry
Source: Library
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., 2010
ISBN: 9780805090826 / 151 pages
Find this book at your local library 

Frederika Brenner’s visit to Cuba in the 19th Century is chronicled in this touching children’s book. Written entirely in verse, each chapter alternatives point of view from four different people. Fredericka, the foreign visitor. Cecilia, the slave girl. Elena, the plantation owner’s daughter. Beni, Cecilia’s husband and father of her yet unborn child. Brenner is Sweden’s first female novelist and one of the first woman’s rights activists. This book is based on her journal and sketchbook from her visit to Cuba.

Each chapter touches on a number of elements regarding slavery and women’s rights. Told from the various perspectives, the book sheds new meanings and understandings in how change is a ripple effect between people. It cannot be forced, but is observed and repeated.

although a quick read, it is by no means an easy read. Engle’s poetry still gets the message across about the horrors, terrors and hypocrisies that encompassed the practice of slavery. The blind-eye by the magistrates, the dollar amount to free a person from slavery, forced marriages (for slaves and plantation daughters as well). There is so much contained in this little book, its sort of incredible how Engle fit in so much with so few words.

Frederika and I
feel like heroines in a story,
following people around
buying captive fireflies and setting them free.
With the Swedish lady
kneeling beside us in church,
I beging to wonder how much my wife
will have changed
by spending so much time
in the company of the stranger
from the land of the North Star.

3 responses to “The Firefly Letters (Margarita Engle) – Review

  1. This is on my TBR pile – I’m even more anxious to get to it now!

  2. Oh wow. This sounds great. I’ve never heard of it before. I love the cover too.

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