- My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson
ISBN 978-0-7636-9508-8 $15.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7
In 1961 Cuba, Batista has been ousted and Premier Fidel Castro calls for a campaign to raise the nation’s standards of living, beginning with the goal of eradicating illiteracy within a year. The call goes out for volunteer tutors who will be trained in pedagogy and sent out to remote farms and plantations to work alongside their students by day and teach them to read and write in the evenings. Revolutionary spirit and optimism appeal to thousands of adolescents and young adults, among them thirteen-year-old Havana resident Lora, who wears down her parents to gain their permission to enlist, trades her school uniform for military-style gear, and heads off into the mountains to live with small farmers Luis and Veronica Santana and their three young children, teaching them and four of their neighbors to read, while learning how to tend crops, ride a horse, and live on next to nothing. The adult students are determined, making steady progress and often driving each other forward through clever acts of social subterfuge and competition. However, counterrevolutionary followers still lurk in the hills, targeting the Conrado Benítez Brigade workers and their hosts. Paterson skillfully navigates the Zeitgeist, capturing the enthusiasm of young people reshaping their country, censuring the enemy United States while embracing the Twist, bonding with their host families even as they long to flee from insurgents to the safety of their city homes. A timeline of Cuban history is included, as well as author notes incorporating sources for her research.