The Queen of Water

By: Laura Resau

Maria Virginia Farinango

At seven, Virginia becomes a servant to people who don’t speak her language. Eight years later, she returns to her family, and finds she can’t speak theirs.

ISBN: 9780385907613

JLG Release: Apr 2011


Sensitive Areas: Discrimination: Reference/Discussion, Sexual Content: Mild Sexual Content/Themes
Topics: Quechua Indians , Ecuador , Indians of South America , Indentured servants , Social classes

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Awards & Honors

SLJ Best Books of 2011, Fiction; YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Booklist*, The Horn Book Magazine, School Library Journal*, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)

School Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW]
Based on a true story, and told from the protagonist’s point of view, The Queen of Water follows a seven-year-old indígena who was taken from her family in the rural Ecuadoran Andes mountains to be a servant in an urban home. Confused, afraid, and alone, Virginia accepts her captors as parents an
[STARRED REVIEW]
Based on a true story, and told from the protagonist’s point of view, The Queen of Water follows a seven-year-old indígena who was taken from her family in the rural Ecuadoran Andes mountains to be a servant in an urban home. Confused, afraid, and alone, Virginia accepts her captors as parents and loves their children. The prejudice of these mestizos, or middle-class natives, speeds the girl’s assimilation, though it comes with a price: an inferiority complex that she confronts slowly as she secretly teaches herself to read. Confusion over whether or not her parents gave her away willingly serves the plot well; Virginia’s dilemma doesn’t fit neatly into formulas about courage and fighting for justice, although eventually both are within her reach. Her mistreatment by the woman of the house, an overweight, selfish dentist, is humiliating, constant, and disturbing; her husband plays her foil—understanding, even loving, until Virginia reaches adolescence—when he tries to molest her. This is a poignant coming-of-age novel that will expose readers to the exploitation of girls around the world whose families grow up in poverty.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

Horn Book

Virginia is only seven when she is “given” to a mestizo couple and moves from her village of ind’genas in Ecuador to a house in a town. There she is expected to cook, clean, and care for the couple’s child, and she grows into this servitude believing she is part of the family. But her natural spiritedness grows, too, as s

Virginia is only seven when she is “given” to a mestizo couple and moves from her village of ind’genas in Ecuador to a house in a town. There she is expected to cook, clean, and care for the couple’s child, and she grows into this servitude believing she is part of the family. But her natural spiritedness grows, too, as she comes of age and insists on becoming her own person: learning to read, making friends, and finally making harrowing attempts to break away from the “family” that is abusing her. When she finally returns to her village as a teenager, she understands she is caught between several worlds and has to create her own space between languages, customs, and prescriptive expectations of class. In her previous novels, Resau (Red Glass, rev. 1/08; Star in the Forest, rev. 3/10) has coupled her effective skills at setting and character development with her background as an anthropologist; here, she shares authorship with Farinango, whose sense of her own story was clearly formative in overcoming the challenges of her childhood. The bold step of co-authorship of a “novel based on a true story” attempts to confront head-on issues of authority, though Resau’s prominent top billing and author’s note still reveal pitfalls of the anthropologist’s point of view. As memoir, the meandering narrative doesn’t hold as riveting an arc as other novels, but Virginia’s voice will compel readers, who will find “truths” here, no matter how true the story is. A Spanish and Quichua glossary and pronunciation guide are included.

Junior Library Guild

  • The Queen of Water is a deeply moving autobiographical portrait of María Virginia Farinango’s childhood and her struggle, as an unpaid servant, for education, selfhood, and freedom.
  • Through Virginia’s story, the novel addresses and dramatizes the economic and political plight of Ecuador’s ind
    • The Queen of Water is a deeply moving autobiographical portrait of María Virginia Farinango’s childhood and her struggle, as an unpaid servant, for education, selfhood, and freedom.
    • Through Virginia’s story, the novel addresses and dramatizes the economic and political plight of Ecuador’s indígenas—natives whom the country’s mestizos, or Spanish descendents, treat as second-class citizens.
    • Virginia’s parents send her to her mestizo employers with the understanding that she’ll be paid a thousand sucres a month and occasionally return home for visits. Neither of these promises comes to pass, but seven-year-old Virginia doesn’t speak her employers’ language and assumes her parents could rescue her if they wanted. Her predicament captures the reader’s imagination completely.
    • Despite her bleak situation, Virginia never loses her vivisima or her sense of humor and imagination. Watching her new employer shave his face, she thinks, “My father and uncles don’t have hair on their faces. Maybe these mestizos have to secretly cut off their hairs with little machines to keep from turning into hairy monsters.”
    • When a teenaged Virginia finally reunites with her family, their relationship is strained and awkward. Still, Virginia reaches deep to find a way forward, and her maturity and determination are inspiring: “I will try to build a new life for myself in Yana Urku with my family. And even though part of me still aches and rages over the way my parents carelessly gave away my childhood, I will try, somehow, to love them again. Most of all, I will try to figure out who I am and who I might someday become.”

Book Details

ISBN

9780385907613

First Release

April 2011

Genre

Dewey Classification

F

Trim Size

5 1/2" x 8 1/4"

Page Count

368

Accelerated Reader

Level 5.4; Points: 14;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 5.7; Points: 21;

Lexile

Level 890L

Format

Print Book

Edition

-

Publisher

Delacorte

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Discrimination: Reference/Discussion, Sexual Content: Mild Sexual Content/Themes

Topics

Quechua Indians, Ecuador, Indians of South America, Indentured servants, Social classes,

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