A compassionate, emotionally astute portrait of a young Cuban in exile.

CUBA IN MY POCKET

To escape the harsh realities of Castro’s Cuba, a 12-year-old boy must leave his family behind and flee to the United States alone.

Following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel’s grip on Cuba tightens. Neighbors whisper and conspire against each other, and those not loyal to Castro’s regime face punishment, even execution. When young Cumba is marked for military recruitment, his family decides to send him off to the United States. Escaping to Miami and the home of a distant relative, Cumba struggles to adjust to his new life without his family. The labyrinthlike city’s size and the cacophony of English-speaking voices overwhelm the young boy at first. School also brings its share of pains and embarrassments. Thankfully, Cumba gains allies in the unlikeliest ways, including an American schoolmate obsessed with horse races and other Cuban refugee young people. Letters from his little brother back home also bring him some comfort. Then, one day, a letter brings horrible news: Fidel’s soldiers have arrested Cumba’s parents. Inspired by stories from her father’s childhood, Cuevas’ latest is a triumph of the heart. Devoting half of the story to Cumba’s life in Cuba and the other half to his adjustment to the United States, the author continually reminds readers about the strength provided by community and family and the forces that can threaten to snatch these sources of happiness away.

A compassionate, emotionally astute portrait of a young Cuban in exile. (author’s note, glossary) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-31467-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Remarkable.

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor Book

PRAIRIE LOTUS

A “half-Chinese and half-white” girl finds her place in a Little House–inspired fictional settler town.

After the death of her Chinese mother, Hanna, an aspiring dressmaker, and her White father seek a fresh start in Dakota Territory. It’s 1880, and they endure challenges similar to those faced by the Ingallses and so many others: dreary travel through unfamiliar lands, the struggle to protect food stores from nature, and the risky uncertainty of establishing a livelihood in a new place. Fans of the Little House books will find many of the small satisfactions of Laura’s stories—the mouthwatering descriptions of victuals, the attention to smart building construction, the glorious details of pleats and poplins—here in abundance. Park brings new depth to these well-trodden tales, though, as she renders visible both the xenophobia of the town’s White residents, which ranges in expression from microaggressions to full-out assault, and Hanna’s fight to overcome it with empathy and dignity. Hanna’s encounters with women of the nearby Ihanktonwan community are a treat; they hint at the whole world beyond a White settler perspective, a world all children deserve to learn about. A deeply personal author’s note about the story’s inspiration may leave readers wishing for additional resources for further study and more clarity about her use of Lakota/Dakota. While the cover art unfortunately evokes none of the richness of the text and instead insinuates insidious stereotypes, readers who sink into the pages behind it will be rewarded.

Remarkable. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-78150-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and...

SYLVIA & AKI

Two third-grade girls in California suffer the dehumanizing effects of racial segregation after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1942 in this moving story based on true events in the lives of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu.

Japanese-American Aki and her family operate an asparagus farm in Westminster, Calif., until they are summarily uprooted and dispatched to an internment camp in Poston, Ariz., for the duration of World War II. As Aki endures the humiliation and deprivation of the hot, cramped barracks, she wonders if there’s “something wrong with being Japanese.” Sylvia’s Mexican-American family leases the Munemitsu farm. She expects to attend the local school but faces disappointment when authorities assign her to a separate, second-rate school for Mexican kids. In response, Sylvia’s father brings a legal action against the school district arguing against segregation in what eventually becomes a successful landmark case. Their lives intersect after Sylvia finds Aki’s doll, meets her in Poston and sends her letters. Working with material from interviews, Conkling alternates between Aki and Sylvia’s stories, telling them in the third person from the war’s start in 1942 through its end in 1945, with an epilogue updating Sylvia’s story to 1955.

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-337-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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