Friday, February 10, 2012

Flight to Freedom by Ana Veciana-Suarez | Review

Title: Flight to Freedom
Author: Ana Veciana-Suarez
Number of Pages: 205
Published Date: February 1, 2004
Rating: 2/5

First Person Fiction is dedicated to the immigrant experience in modern America. "Flight to Freedom" is closely based on Suarez's own story of leaving Cuba during the Freedom Flights of the 1960s.

Yara Garcia and her family live a middle-class life in Havana, Cuba. But in 1967, as Communist ruler Fidel Castro tightens his hold on Cuba, the Garcias, who do not share the political beliefs of the Communist Party, are forced to flee to Miami, Florida. There, Yara encounters a strange land with foreign customs. She knows very little English, and she finds that the other students in her new school have much more freedom than she and her sisters. Tension develops between her parents, as Mami grows more independent and Papi joins a militant anti-Castro organization. (goodreads)

"Death is so final, so absolute, so unfair. I do not want to think about it." — Yara

This probably seems like one of the worst ratings I've ever given a book, but I'm using the Goodreads rating scale, and there a 2-star means "It was okay." I'm not saying the book was bad by any means, but in rate of interest it only harbored a two for me. Maybe because it was such a young book? It seems like it should be on the shelves with the Dear America series.

Anyway, this novel[la?] was another that I read for my Spanish class, and I was impressed by the amount of history and knowledge packed into this girl's diary. The author did a good job of incorporating the history into the story without making you feel like you were sitting in a history class with your head on the desk and trying not to drool. It made you feel like it was actually happening.

The book is written beautifully, it catches Yara's essence within the first few pages. It captures her innocence, her confusion, her wants and desires, and how spirited she can be. Normally with stories like this, it gives it from the "good" perspective, or, the Americans. Since it comes from someone native to the Cuban area, it sort of gives it a Book Thief sense. Unfortunately, when put next to The Book Thief, this book doesn't even come close.

Away from the negatives again... Yara gives you a no-nonsense view of Cuba during the days of the Bay of Pigs through her eyes, showing you how people would die for these rations that are only given out because Cuba was subject to communism; how education is hardly regarded as important because all that matters is that you worship Fidel Castro, and the labor that these people would go through just to stay alive or even make a living.

She explains these Freedom Flights, which many Cubans take to the USA to escape the terrors of this communist country. Yara's family leaves on one of these, and meet with a few distant relatives in Florida. There she meets new friends (and enemies) at her school, an old friend from La Escuela del Campo she attended before she went to Miami, and gains knowledge of plants from her Abuelo she never would've considered learning. You experience how people back then had no real choices other than learning English; and you follow the struggles she is faced with even when she's escaped the communism.

Something else to note would be the objects that prove her wrong when she arrives at America. That being, her 'culture shocks', or things she expected but finds they're completely different. One of the resonating ones with me is that back then she imagined coming to America and thought, no matter where she turned, she would see Americans eating cheeseburgers and french fries. She learned that they have an entire array of international foods, a lot different from the American choice of meal she was expecting.

Others were the way her school worked: she went to school in what someone would probably wear to church and was amazed to see the casual dress all of the students were in. She also did not expect the number of people there who did know Spanish. It came as a relief to her when her teacher knew some Spanish, but she knew she would need to learn English anyway if she had any hope of assimilating to American customs. It was just the way it was.
Little note: Her friend from la Escuela del Campo is named Alina, who happens to be the name of a character from my novel! I love when that happens.

Each character has a diversity to them that gives this story even more depth. This book is like a painting, and focuses on the depth of the story and its characters. Her Abuelo is a scholar-type person, her mother wants to be able to take care of herself, her father is ridiculously obsessed with returning to his homeland (to save it from communism), her older sister is defiant of any status quo her parents wish to impose upon on.

Yara also faces several forms of loss in this novel. Loss of a loved one, loss of her homeland and material possessions, and loss of her self-respect at some points. But she remains strong all the way through, and that was the only way someone in her position could survive. Veciana-Suarez weaved a beautiful tale here, one with a lot of potential. This review should've been more for stars, but my only rating is contributed to the fact it wasn't my age level.

The history was flawless, the characters were realistic, the pacing was perfect, and the drama was awesome. I highly recommend this book—to middle schoolers and below. If you're older and want a quick history lesson, this is a good quick read. Don't let my rating of the novel fuel you—it's better than that measly little rating gives it credit for.


Listening to [or I wish I was...] - World End Dominator - Umineko no Naku Koro ni
Reading - The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
Watching - The computer screen.
Quote - "All your dreams come true in another dream you live; everywhere you go would be the place where you belong..."

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