Friday, May 16, 2014

REVIEW: The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle

The Firefly Letters
by Margarita Engle

We go out at night 
to rescue fireflies.

Children catch the friendly cocuyos
and pull off their wings
or put them in bottles
to make little lamps
where the insects glow and fly
until they starve.

Women tie living cocuyos
onto their ruffled dresses as ornements
and girls weave them into their hair 
like flashing jewels.

Fredrika and I
feel like heroines in a story, 
following people around
buying captive fireflies
and setting them free.

A novel in verse, Engle tells the true story of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish suffragette, who travels to Cuba to document life there at the turn of the century. She is given an African slave named Cecelia to translate for her. Fredrika's host family has a young girl named Elena who has never been outside her house and is strictly told what is and is not expected of a noble lady. The novel is structured into short poems from the perspective of Fredrika, Cecelia, Elena, and Cecilia's husband Beni, as they reveal the pleasures and darker underbelly of Cuba.

This was a delightful book. I had expected a bit more action, but the lyrical poetry was enchanting and I was taken on a lovely ride. It was fascinating to learn about Cuba at that time and see how the three women help each other to grow. It is an interesting exploration of slavery and captivity in all its forms.

No comments:

Post a Comment