Last week, Atheneum released Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words, award-winning Cuban-American author Margarita Engle's eighteenth book for young readers. Here is the publisher's description:
In a haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights.Around the book's release date, reports surfaced that the Cuban government is blocking text messages containing words such as "democracy," "human rights," and "hunger strike," words that, in the Communist nation, often signal political dissidence. Engle, who has spoken often and eloquently about the power of words to heal and liberate, now brings us a historical YA verse novel of timely relevance, bringing light to bear on Cuba's decades-long human rights struggle and the role words play in documenting stories and shaping political landscapes. Enjoy this excerpt from the novel's opening.
Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the nineteenth century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and nearly-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.
So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that violence will not be the only way to gain liberty.