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Imagining Isabel

Imagining Isabel

by Omar S. Castaneda

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Delving deeper into the political strife of his native Guatemala, Castaneda produces a compelling sequel to his Among the Volcanoes. The story, told even more thoughtfully and lyrically than its predecessor, begins as issues from that book are resolved--Isabel, 15, marries her boyfriend, Lucas, and she is helping her family recover from the death of her mother when she's accepted by the national teachers' training school in Solola. Leaving her small Mayan village, the girl is initially overwhelmed by the sophistication of her fellow students. Worse trouble arises when an unidentifed soldier leads her to a dead body near the school, and the military subsequently suspects that Isabel belongs to a rebel underground. Castaneda deftly probes a number of difficult issues, including Isabel's desire to follow her dreams in spite of the pull of family and tradition; the search for truth in a baffling political climate; and the struggle of Guatemala to become a modern nation without losing its heritage. While the richness of the prose may prove a challenge to the younger end of the target audience, this rewarding, multifaceted story will inform, teach and entertain. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)
The ALAN Review - Connie S. Zitlow
When she explored the bundle of tokens passed down from eleven generations of women, sixteen-year-old Isabel learned that her dying mother had approved her marriage to Lucas. Soon, however, Isabel felt doubt and fear as she left her traditional Mayan village to accept the government's invitation to attend a teacher-training program. She successfully managed her studies while still caring for her young sister. Yet, she was haunted by mysterious events and people. Who was really in control of Isabel? of all the people of Guatemala? Isabel wanted to decide the person she would become instead of letting others "imagine" her life for her. A sequel to Among the Volcanoes, this coming-of-age story shows the impact on a loving, intelligent female of the cultural and political conflicts in Central America. This book, recommended for middle- and high-school readers, is dedicated to the heroes of the Massacre of Santiago Atitl�n in 1990.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-12-Against a backdrop of political violence and cultural conflict in modern Guatemala, Isabel Pacay Choy, 15, discovers her inner strength and self-worth. In this sequel to Among the Volcanoes (Lodestar, 1991), the young woman continues to confront responsibilities after her marriage to Lucas and the death of her mother. But the arrival of a letter from the National Education Commission inviting her to become a teacher trainee opens a door to opportunity. With pride, anxiety, and her little sister in tow, Isabel enrolls in the eight-week program in the town of Solola, where she quietly absorbs the different viewpoints of her roommates on politics and women. When a stroll outside the school leads her to the corpse of a political victim, Isabel is terrified. She is later questioned and threatened. In spite of these frightening experiences, she is determined to finish her education, and later discovers that they were staged to test her character and commitment. Nina, one of her roommates, reveals to Isabel that she is now part of a national ``network of trust'' fighting military oppression. As a teacher in her village, she can now work for both the education and just treatment of her people. Isabel's political awakening is embedded in a story full of family affection and simplicity. Characters are distinct, customs are interwoven, and the plot unfolds steadily. Despite differences in setting and culture, readers will find a universality in Isabel's concern for loved ones and safety, her desire to fulfill a dream, and her insecurity in the face of tough decisions.-Gerry Larson, Chewning Middle School, Durham, NC
Ilene Cooper
Castaneda continues his story of Isabel Pacay, who lives in a poor Guatemalan village but has dreams of becoming a teacher. As the book opens, Isabel marries her boyfriend, Lucas, and expects to settle down. A surprise letter from the city offers her a position in a teaching program that not only gives her the opportunity to pursue her dream, but also involves her in a guerrilla movement that has dangerous implications for her and her family. As in his previous book about Isabel, "Under the Volcano" (1991), the author casts a story about a young woman's yearnings against a background of political unrest, poverty, and foreign influences. The writing can be affecting, but it's often dense. Both in subject matter and in style this is a challenge; the primary audience may be readers who have already been caught up in Isabel's story.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.51(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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