Margarita Engle’s childhood straddled two worlds: the lush, welcoming island of Cuba and the lonely, dream-soaked reality of Los Angeles. But the revolution has transformed Cuba into a mystery of impossibility, no longer reachable in real life. Margarita longs to travel the world, yet before she can become independent, she’ll have to start high school. Then the shock waves of war reach America, rippling Margarita’s plans in their wake. Cast into uncertainty, she must grapple with the philosophies of peace, civil rights, freedom of expression, and environmental protection. Amid the challenges of adolescence and a world steeped in conflict, Margarita finds hope beyond the struggle, and love in the most unexpected of places.
Scholastic Reading Counts
In this companion verse memoir to Enchanted Air (rev. 7/15), Engle provides a glimpse into her high school years in Los Angeles and early adulthood as a Cuban American person coming to an understanding of her place in the world. In five chapters (covering 1966–1973), Engle details saving her babysitting money to fulfill her dreams of travel, the joys and struggles of her various relationships, her eventual cross-country journey, and the decision to transfer from a “big, famous” university to a community college, where she finally finds her true self. Engle doesn’t shy away from portraying the impact of the Vietnam War; the injustices prevalent in society at the time; the protests and resistance of students and workers; and black and brown solidarity. The poems display Engle’s customary sincerity and reflect the parallels and divergences between her two worlds—her Cuban and U.S. American heritages. As stated in the appended author’s note, the current Young People’s Poet Laureate wanted readers to see that there are no straight lines for many of us: “All that matters is choosing a place to start, and then persevering.”