Before We Were Free
by Julia Alvarez
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction
Synopsis: I wonder what it would be like to be free? Not to need wings because you don't need to fly away from your country?
Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom growing up in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, her beloved Tio Toni has disappeared, Papi keeps getting mysterious phone calls about butterflies and someone named Mr. Smith, and the government's secret police regularly search her house for evidence of her family's opposition to the country's terrifying dictator. Even the words Anita writes in her diary about becoming a woman and about a blossoming first love must be erased so that they will not incriminate her family.
As the situation on the island becomes increasingly dangerous and her family is forced into hiding, Anita must struggle to overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.
from the book jacket
Review: Before reading this book I knew nothing about the Dominican Republic's political history and the dictator, El Jefe. While at first Anita was shielded by her family regarding the oppression and the opposition, her parents eventually decide to tell her what is going on. Anita struggles with being scared for her family as the situation escalates in her country. Anita goes through a lot of changes in this book as she matures during a difficult time. There is a lot of talk in this book about Anita becoming a woman and obsessing about that plus Anita has some crushes and fixates on that. It's hard to place an age level on this book but due to the female content plus the seriousness of the topic, I wouldn't recommend this book for anyone below junior high age.
Rating: 3.5 stars