Customer Reviews for

Before We Were Free

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2008

    Amazingly Amazing. I Loved this Book!!

    I found the book to have a little bit of everything in it. It had culture, suspense, sad moments, and good times. I'm not Hispanic myself, but there were plenty things I could relate to other than the hardships Anita and her family went through dealing with their dictator. I think everyone can gain something from this book. I don't think you should consider it boring, but then again that's your opinion. Personally, I think a book can't be boring, it just might not be your type of book because all authors strive to catch a reader's attention.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    A great way to teach Dominican history to young kids

    As a Dominican-American, it was truly refreshing to read the impact the Trujillo dictatorship had through the eyes of a young girl. Julia Alvarez was really able to capture her own biographical narrative in this touching story.

    I look forward to having my own child read this story and allow him or her to learn about that terrible part of our Dominican history.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2010

    An Engrossing Tale that Tugs at your Heart-Strings

    Random House, Inc. publishing company made the right decision in publishing Julia Alvarez's 2002 novel, Before We Were Free. In this engrossing 163-page novella, the reader follows the struggle of 12-year-old Anita and her family's grueling quest for freedom. As the narrator of the story, it is easy to begin to understand and feel for Anita. Being the daughter of a hero radically opposing the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, she feels pressure that should never be felt by a girl of her age. All she wants is to be free, and that means leaving her country for the United States. Throughout the novel she survives things that even the strongest of people would find horrifying, living in appalling conditions and suffering great losses. Most will find it difficult to resist gaining respect for this resilient young girl. Anita, too, must face the difficult challenge of growing up while in the midst of her fight for freedom. The reader quickly develops affection for Anita as she awkwardly makes the jump from child to young woman. Because she keeps a diary, you get to know her innermost secrets and look into her world and the emotions she feels while going through such a confusing time, and therefore it is as though you connect with her on a very personal level. I liked the book because of its surprising twists and turns, which kept me captivated and itching to read on. At one point, the book turns into Anita's Diary for a few pages, which was unique and provided further insight into her mind. From watching her fall in love (more than once) to finding out about her family's double life, I was constantly on the edge of my seat. The ending was phenomenal. Julia Alvarez uses stunning symbolism here, as Anita stares out of her window looking at the snow angels she had made earlier. "What I see as I look down aren't angels but butterflies, the arm swings connecting to the leg swings like a pair of wings, our heads poking out in between! I'm sure if Chucha were here, she would say they are a sign. Four butterflies from Papi, reminding me to fly." Flying to freedom and away from her dictator are all she strives for through the entire story. This little metaphor was both cute and meaningful, illustrating her drive to be free. I learned a lot from this book. For example, I never knew how desperate the people of the Dominican Republic were or how they were treated. I found out that people actually suffered the trauma represented through the book, and were driven to almost unthinkable things. I learned a few Spanish words as well, that were scattered in italics throughout the novel. I would recommend this book to anyone who would enjoy a thrilling novel that makes you think. It's a gut-wrenching and suspenseful tale that makes you feel like you are there seeing and experience the unjust treatment plaguing the impoverished country of the Dominican Republic. Before We Were Free is a quick, easy read that could be enjoyed by most.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2008

    An outstanding novel

    Julia ALverez's Before We Were Free is an excellend and very exciting novel. The book is about a young girl names Anita de la torre. Anita is a 12 year old girl who grew up in the Dominican Republic under the dictatorship of Jrujillo in the 1960's. Her whole life Anita has lived in a family compound built by her grandfather. Each time one of her cousins or other relatives married her grandfather would build another house in the compound. Anitas grandparents recently emmigrated for New York to get out of the country but she had no idea why. The contry is going through a tough time under the cruel dictatorship of Trujillo. Anitas uncle Tio Toni has to go into hiding and stay out of public. Anitas cousins and the rest of their families have also emmigrated for New York. The compound is almost completely empty with the departure of Anitas relatives. All that remains are Anita, Lucinda her sister, Mundin her brother, her mom, her dad, Chucha and Tio Toni shows up from time to time. Soon after Anitas faily and their house are searched and raided by the SIM secret police. They are watched for weeks and papa is also followed to work by a couple of all black volkswagons. The only thing Anita can do to feel free is write down everything in her diary. A couple weeks after the raid Anita and her family are getting new neighbors, the Washburn family. Anita and her family feel a lot more comfortable now that the secret police have left. After this many events come into place, Anita meets the Washburns son Sam and realizes she has met her first love, after recieving flowers from the cruel Trujillo Anitas sister Lucinda is deported out of the Donican Republic so she is not taken away from her family, Mundin now has to live with the Italian embassador now that the family is in danger, and after all the secret talk in Tio Tonis casseta him and papi set out to kill Trujillo. Now Anits and her mother cannot even stay in their home. They remain in their friends closet in hiding for months only coming out to eat scraps of food and to drink. Throughout this book Anita is growing up very fast. She is starting to realize what is going on around her but all she wants to do is gain her freedom. I really enjoyed this book. My mind got captured into the story and my attention was grabbed by the interesting writing style of the author. I would definetely recommend this book because it teaches people a lot of knowledge about the horrific yet exciting struggle of Dominican families during the dictatorship of Trujillo. I learned from this book to keep fighting for what you believe in and dont give up.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2008

    Page Turner

    Anita de la Torre is a 12 year old girl from the Dominican Republic. The dictator of her country is cruel and brutal. Anita's father and Tio Toni have put together a group of the Dominican's bravest men to take down the infamous leader, Trujillo. This secret organization is being watched closely by the SIM, or secret police. If anyone found out about the secret organization, or its plan, Anita's whole family would be murdered. Most of Anita's relatives have already fled to the United States to protect their lives. The only family she has left in the D.R. is her mother, father, brother, Chucha, and Lucinda. Chucha has been the family's maid since Anita was a baby. Chucha has a premonition about the events to come in the following year, she tells Anita that Anita, her mother, her brother, and Anita's sister will all spread their wings and fly home soon. As the secret organization comes closer to bringing down the dictator, things around the de la Torre house hold become very tense. Anita starts to feel like she is being treated like a child because no one wants to explain the horrific things that are happening. Also Anita's mother is trying to protect her from worrying, fearing she is too young to handle what could be a fatal outcome of the mens plans. Anita is not to worried about whats going on around her, not just because she doesn't completely understand, but because the United States consul just moved in next door. The consul has a son Anita's age named Sammy. Anita thinks she has fallen in love with Sammy and they become best friends. But when the consul gets involved with the secret plans of the group, they flee back to the U.S. for safety. Anita is heart broken, losing yet another loved one to the U.S. Previous to Sammy's departure, Anita's older sister was sent to the U.S. because she was being watched by Trujillo. Trujillo kept many young women hidden at his golf club, because he knew that his wife would never find his young love interests there. Lucinda was quickly sent to live with her aunt and uncle in New York, avoiding becoming one of Trujillo's women. Will the men over throw the dictator? Will they live to see their country freed? Will Anita spread her wings and fly? I highly recommend Before We Were Free because its a very interesting book. There's a lot of twists and turns in this novel, and it will leave you hungry for more. Julia Alvarez leaves you hanging on her every word, and with each new chapter, comes a new outlook on life.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    This book is great!

    The book is great because it shows how to become an American citizen and how bad it feels to move from your friends and family that came from there.You are going to miss your school,friends,and home.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2012

    Andrew Shields Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (published

    Andrew Shields
    Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (published in 2007) was an interesting novel written in the first person perspective of a twelve year old girl named Anita. The story takes place from 1960 to 1961 in the Dominican Republic while under the brutal dictatorship of Trujillo. Anita is a normal twelve year old girl living a happy life with a large and stable family. But that all changes very quickly as she starts to notice that many members of her family are beginning to disappear. She is left confused by this and because of the constant coming and going of her father and uncle tony. She soon learns that her father and uncle were part of a big plot to murder the dictator. Uncle tony has gone missing, the rest of the family has left for New York and Anita and her mother are left at the house. They are there hiding from the secret police that come and raid there house. 
    Anita receives a diary for Christmas and begins writing all of her thoughts, feelings and experiences in it. This really paints a clear image in the reader’s head of just how frightened Anita must have been. Anita is forced to grow up very fast and as the book progresses you can really see her grow to be a mature young woman. Throughout the book she shows incredible courage trying to get a hold of freedom. During this struggle she says “I wonder what it would be like to be free? Not to need wings because you don't have to fly away from your country?” This quote really makes you realize how a lot of us take freedom for granted and don’t understand that the struggle families like Anita’s went through during this period of dictatorship. 
    I enjoyed reading this book because although there were some slow points, the majority of the novel was very interesting and I found myself very engrossed in the book. Alvarez did a great job writing this book, Anita was a great choice for narrator and I really enjoyed how she had a diary that she wrote her thoughts and feelings down in. This gave the reader a clear understanding of how Anita was feeling throughout the story.
     Julia Alvarez grew up in the Dominican Republic during the time that Trujillo was the dictator. Although she was able to leave at age 10, she knew people that were forced to stay just like Anita and was informed of the struggle they went through just to survive. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a short but interesting novel or anyone who is looking into learning about the hard times in the Dominican Republic with Trujillo as a dictator.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great and interesting book

    It's a touching book and I recommend it to everyone.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2014

    Good read

    It was an interesting read about a time in history I knew very little about.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    AMAZING!

    This book constructively portrays the history of my Dominican Republic in an entertaining yet realistic manner. Loved it, Alvarez is an illustrious author, my absolute favorite.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    Highly rec. if u r interested & up to date about the Dominican politics.Have met author. She writes from experience. Definitely moving story

    Have read the books written before & after. This makes sense if you have read In the time of the Butterflies & are interested in the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic--which I am..

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2002

    Before We Were Free

    Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom growing up in the Dominican Republic. By her 12th birthday, her relatives start disappearing to the United States, her home is frequently searched by the secret police, and her family is forced into hiding. Suddenly she must struggle to overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all she once knew behind. Julia Alvarez¿s way of capturing a reader and enabling them to feel like they are part of the story is unrivaled. She gives young readers a glimpse of what a life is like where a dictator¿s picture hangs on walls in every home, and young girls are hidden from his dangerous eyes. She opens the book slowly, and gently reveals to the reader some of the harsh realities of life under a dictator. In the book, the author follows one girl¿s journey throughout an entire year of life in an environment where she never knows what is going to happen next, and her and her family are constantly living in fear. Through this time period Anita learns some of the graphic truths about her family and her freedom as a citizen of the Dominican Republic, and is forced to overcome her fears and do things she has never imagined before. Alvarez gives the reader a good sense of what living under a dictatorship was like at the time, but also gives the reader a good idea of the relationship between Anita¿s family, as is visible when Anita¿s father pleads to her, ¿I want my children to be free, no matter what. Promise me you¿ll spread your wings and fly.¿ When I read this book, I connected it to other books and events that have taken place in the world¿s history. For example, when Anita and her mother were in hiding, and Anita kept a diary to pass the time, I was reminded of Anne Frank when she was in hiding during World War II in Amsterdam. Anne also kept a diary which, unlike Anita¿s, is now world famous. Anita and Anne were very similar in many ways, because both of their lives changed before their eyes and they had to learn to live in a way they had never known before. Both girls also did not get along well with their mothers during the time they were in hiding, although they became closer later on. Overall, I felt that Anita de la Torre and Anne Frank were very similar in more ways than one. Although I was able to get into this book from the very beginning, there are some strategies that a reader can use to help them to better understand the text. Alvarez writes in such detail that it easy for the reader to constantly visualize what they are reading. As I was reading, I felt that applying this strategy helped me to feel as if I was really there in the Dominican Republic with Anita and her family. Having never lived in a country other than the United States, this was an extremely important strategy because I had to imagine what it was like in a country where there aren¿t big buildings and shopping malls everywhere, where it is always hot, and the people aren¿t like the people I have been exposed to in the United States. Most importantly, I have never lived under a dictatorship where my freedoms are stripped from me and I don¿t have half the rights I do in the United States, which is why visualizing is such a key strategy when reading this book. Because of my lack of knowledge about this country, I tried to use the little I do know about dictatorships and other countries like the Dominican Republic to help me as I read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2014

    If i could give this 0 stars i would

    I read this for seventh grade summer reading and the whole time i wanted to throw my nook out the window! Exclamation marks were way over used but their weren't used where they should have been. The story is okay but the writting style sucks! I DON'T recomend it

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    Good

    I will warn you right now, this not a book for boys! This is a wonderful coming of age story. I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2011

    Bad book, but good writer

    Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez is a book I would not recommend. The beginning was slow to read, and only after page 98 did it become more interesting. Before that this historical fiction was not a page turner or a book I was rushing to finish. Once you read past the information and descriptions of the characters in the first part of the book, it turns into a slightly better story.
    With all the reviews I read prior to selecting this book I did not think it would have included anything about puberty. "In fact, I'm not a señorita, as I haven¿t gotten my period yet.¿(page 59). The paragraph and other parts of the book continue on with information that was not relevant to the book at all. I found it strange to have paragraphs like this randomly mentioned throughout the book. I never would have guessed it was in there when I first picked up the book, and I don¿t think it needed to be included in the book.
    Also, there were some groups in the book whose significance were never clarified. ¿Long live the butterflies!¿ (page 98). I figured they would tell us who the butterflies were somewhere in the book, but it never did. It confused me because the butterflies were brought up quite often. Another group that was never revealed who they were was the SIM. ¿I can¿t talk about the SIM¿s visit or my cousins¿ leaving for New York.¿ (page 30). Throughout the book they only refer to them as the SIM and I never knew who the really were. All that was revealed was that they worked for the government but I did not know why or who they were, which got confusing.
    Another thing that bothered me was the different styles of writing Alvarez used. During most of the book she wrote in first person as the events were happening, towards the end she switched it to just diary entries. I do not think that it was necessary to change to just all diary entries. There seemed to be better language and more information in her regular style writings.
    There were some good things in this book, I liked how well the characters were described. I also enjoyed the insight into the 1960¿s troubles in Puerto Rico and their history. I also liked her use of metaphors. I felt like I knew Anita and was friends with her at some points in the story. Also, I learned about the history or Puerto Rico and how El Jefe controlled the land. Although it did not explain what some of the Spanish words used meant, I was left guessing or looking them up which distracted me from the flow of the story and history about her family and the country. Sometimes it said it after in english and sometimes it did not. I was annoyed that it was not consistent. My overall favorite part of the book was the great metaphors Alvarez used as on page 103. ¿The organ music plays on, like a funeral that will not quit.¿ I loved this metaphor and thought it was great and fit what was happening well. She was like an artist with her words throughout the book and seems like a talented author.
    This is the first book I have read by Julia Alvarez. Although I did not really like the book, I think she is a great writer. The book had a slow beginning, randomly thrown in information, choppy points and chapters, but Alvarez did include some great metaphors, similes, language and background information into Puerto Rico¿s history. The history, types of writing and plot of the story just did not fit together well. This book would not be highly recommended by me to read, but I would recommend reading other

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

    Loved it!

    Love her writing style and this book!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2010

    Inspiring and Captivating! A book you must read

    Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez is an interesting and gripping novel for many reasons. It tells the story of twelve-year old Anita de la Toree in the 1960's. Her and her family and friends are living in the Dominican Republic, and are living through the civil unrest and revolution under the authority of General Trujillo. Anita's cousins, sister, and friends are forced to leave the Dominican Republic, her school closes, and she eventually must hide from the secret police that are terrorizing families because of suspected resistance to General Trujillo. Anita writes in her journal, "We're in the crawl space- and I'm scribbling down this note by flashlight just in case anyone finds this diary- There was a huge roar in the backyard like a plane landing- now a crashing sound at the downstairs door- Oh my god- they're coming through the house!!!!- My hand is shaking so hard- but I want to leave this record just so the world knows-" (Alvarez, 137). Anita soon finds that no one can be trusted and she must suffer through life as her freedom is taken away from her and her people. She quickly discovers her own family's part in a secret movement against their leader, and while all this is going on, she is growing into a young woman.
    Next, Anita experiences crushes and learns how to grow up. Told through Anita's point of view, Alvarez shows a story of a young girl growing up through extreme transformations with herself and her country. Anita says toward the end of the novel, ".it doesn't seem scary to die, I think it's scarier to be alive, especially when you feel that you'll never be as happy and carefree as when you were a little kid" (Alvarez, 162). This quote expresses that Anita goes through things that make her realize that life is tough, it's not always going to be fun and relaxed. Next, earlier on in the story, her mother reassures Anita by stating, "And someday, we will be free, and all your cousins and aunts and uncles will come back and thank us" (Alvarez, 52). Also, Anita says, "The emptiness inside starts filling with a strong love and a brave pride" (Alvarez 163). These statements express the sacrifices one has to make for the people we love and the immense pride and gratitude people can have for others.
    Although written in English, Julia Alvarez uses many cultural words and phrases through out the novel, such as, "Es mi hijita", or it's my little girl. Before We Were Free is inspiring and captivating. I read it for a school project and I soon found that I couldn't put it down. Towards the end it emphasizes on the hardships of life and the risks and challenges a person must go through to help others. This novel tells the tale of a strong, young girl who was forced to grow up much to fast and her family as they stuck close together and stayed strong. Lastly, it can inspire readers to realize how much they have and to not take anything for granted. If you enjoy compelling and heartwarming stories, then Before We Were Free is the book for you.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Before We Were Free

    Anita is almost twelve years old, and can't wait to grow up. But now that she stands on the edges of the adult world, nothing seems so simple and so good anymore. El Jefe, whom she once thought the great leader of her country, is a monster. Her parents and their friends speak in code. Everyone is afraid. Change is coming, not just for Anita, but for her family and the Dominican Republic, and Anita must find the courage to face it.

    Before We Were Free is an engaging portrait of a young girl's growing awareness of what it means to live in the Dominican Republic dictatorship. Despite a bit of a slow start, Julia Alvarez does an excellent job of drawing the reader into the scary, sad, and sweet moments that shape Anita's adolescence.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Book

    Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez was published in 2007 and shows the true struggle of freedom and emotion. The book takes place in the 1960's in the Dominican Republic under the cruel dictatorship of Trujillo. The narrator which is Anita de la Torre a twelve year old girl living in her family compound of her parents,siblings,cousins,uncle,aunts and the Washburns. Anita is confused with the coming and going of her Father and her Tio Toni, strange phone calls and the always talking of butterflies. Anita is now no longer confused of the meaning of butterflies when the SIM (secret police) raid the compound. Anita soon learns her family is part of an underground group plotting against there countries dictator. Anita now has no freedom being constantly watched by the SIM and knowing that if they discover anything about her family her family will be murdered. Soon the SIM finds the assasinated dictator in the familys car. Her family is now being ripped apart and arrested by the dozens. Anita and her mother are the only ones left and Anita doesn't know what will happen to her country, her family and her life.

    I liked this book and would recommend it because the book reminded me of the diary of Anne Frank. Anne Frank and Anita have so much in common in the emotional pain and the fight for freedom. Much of Before we were Free is like Anne Frank book because many chapters in before we were free have a diary like format. Overall i enjoyed this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2009

    Before We Were Free :Review

    Julia Alverez's novel Before We Were Free is about a 12 year old girl named Anita de la Torre. Anita grew up in the Dominican Republic in a compound with her family. Growing up Anita has so many things she wants to do before she turns 13. She seems to have a very normal life at first but, when her father and Tío Toni start talking about the "butterflies", things get complicated for Anita and her family.
    The secrecy of the "butterfly" meetings, and what they were, caused trouble throughout the compound. Not long after all the talk of the "butterflies", the Sim men or secret police came and raided the compound and all the homes of the family members. The dictator Trujillo, a cruel and brutal man, starts controversy with men for his intolerable actions toward women. Tío Toni, Anita's father and their friends created a plot to get rid of their dictator for what he has done. This secret association is being watched closely under the eye of the Sim, or the secret police. If discovered Anita and her whole family would have to be murdered, so the family went into hiding. The secret police discover the assassinated dictator in one of the family member's car, and Tío Toni, Anita's father, and brother are taken away. Anita and her mother have no other option but to abandon their once safe and comforting home in order to survive.
    I enjoyed this novel very much, it shows the many problems and challenges that Anita and her family must go through to survive and keep the secrets of the family. Anita and her mother had given up all their rights of freedom which shows their bravery and courage of what they will do to live. This book is a reminder to me that you don't know how good you have it until you have to give it all up. It also shows what people will do for what they believe in and what they will do to protect their family from harm. If you need a change in pace Before We Were Free is a novel I recommend to everybody and anybody.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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