Before We Were Free

Before We Were Free

by Julia Alvarez

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

A new paperback edition of Julia Alvarez’s beloved Pura Belpré winner about life in Trujillo’s Dominican Republic. “Diary entries written by a child while in hiding will remind readers of Anne Frank’s story.” —SLJ
 
Anita de la Torre never questioned her freedom living in the Dominican Republic. But by her twelfth birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have immigrated to the United States, her Tío Toni has disappeared without a trace, and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition to Trujillo’s iron-fisted rule.
 
Using the strength and courage of her family, Anita must overcome her fears and fly to freedom, leaving all that she once knew behind.
 
From renowned author Julia Alvarez comes an unforgettable story about adolescence, perseverance, and one girl’s struggle to be free.
 
A Miami Herald Best Book of the Year
Winner of the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Winner of the Pura Belpré Award
An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
An ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book

“A stirring work of art.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
 
“A realistic and compelling account of a girl growing up too quickly while coming to terms with the cost of freedom.” —The Horn Book, Starred Review
 
“Diary entries written by the child while in hiding will remind readers of Anne Frank’s story. . . . Readers will bite their nails as the story moves to its inexorable conclusion.” —SLJ
 
“Alvarez’s story will spark intense discussion about politics and family.” —Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399555497
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/27/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 19,204
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.49(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Julia Alvarez is the award-winning author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies. Her highly acclaimed books for young readers include The Secret Footprints, A Gift of Gracias, the Tía Lola series, Finding Miracles, and Return to Sender. Alvarez has won numerous awards for her work, including the Pura Belpré and Américas awards for her children’s books, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature. In 2013, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama. She is currently a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and, together with her husband, Bill Eichner, established Alta Gracia, a sustainable coffee farm/literacy center in the Dominican Republic. Visit her on the Web at juliaalvarez.com.

Hometown:

Middlebury, Vermont

Date of Birth:

March 27, 1950

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 3
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Before We Were Free"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Julia Alvarez.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. Throughout the book, Anita watches her mother to judge the situation in the compound. Her mother often changes her approach to Anita–sometimes treating her as an adult, sometimes as a child. Why do you feel Anita’s mother does that? How does Anita react, and how do you think she would like to be treated? Do you feel she is old enough to be hearing the truth, or should her mother shelter her more?

2. In the beginning of the book, Anita’s extended family suddenly flees the country, leaving only Anita and her immediate family behind. The family lives in a compound and is extremely close. What role does the family, immediate and extended, play in this book? Does Anita realize that not everyone has the relationship her family experiences?

3. Anita is at a stage of her life where questioning authority becomes a common occurrence. In this book, there are several different authority figures that are forcing her to behave in certain ways, such as the government, the opposition army, and her family. How does she deal with this authority? How does she get around some of the rules?

4. Anita and her sister have a typical relationship that most readers can understand. Does this attitude toward each other represent a determination to keep a certain level of normalcy in a very frightening and often dangerous situation? How do both of their attitudes change once the quinceañera occurs?

5. Discuss the importance of the compound in this book, specifically the loss of the family’s freedom to go outside the gates, as well as the areas inside the compound that were off limits.

6. In order to shield the rest of the family, Anita’s fatherand the group running the opposition speak outside of the house, not realizing that Anita’s window is right next to their meeting place. How did hearing these conversations affect Anita? Do you feel she was better off knowing the truth, or did the whole situation make her grow up faster than necessary?

7. After the compound becomes unsafe for Anita and her family, Anita and her mother secretly move to a safe house location and live in a closet. Compare this experience to historical events that caused people to go into hiding, to be detained because of their beliefs or nationalities, and to be threatened with death. Is there any particular person that she reminds you of?

8. Anita befriends an American boy, Sam. At her tender age of 12, she is divided between her child-like view of the world and her adult emotions. How does her ever-changing view of life affect her relationship with Sam and with her friend Oscar, who is from her country?

9. What role does American culture play in this novel? Specifically, discuss the quinceañera and the Sweet Sixteen rites of passage and the idea that Anita and her family recognize American holidays, such as Thanksgiving.

10. At the end of the novel, Anita has lost some of her family to the violence in her native country. How does she feel about the sacrifice that her family had to make? Does she truly understand the impact that her family made on her country’s history?

Interviews

A Conversation with Julia Alvarez on Before We Were Free:

Q. We learn in your author's note that this story was inspired by your own and your family's experience in the Dominican Republic. How much of a role did your own memories and the true stories you heard play in the writing of the book?

A. My father was involved in the underground against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. When members of his immediate "cell" were rounded up, we had to leave in a hurry for the United States. But my uncle, who was also involved in the underground, and his family remained. Some members of the group who assassinated the dictator went to my uncle's house to hide. When they were caught, my uncle was also taken away. My aunt and cousins lived under house arrest for nine months, not knowing if my uncle was dead or alive. He survived, but the members who had hidden in his house were killed by the dictator's son. These men were very close friends of my family. In fact, growing up, I called them tíos, uncles; their kids were my playmates. So you see, I had some connection to what actually happened. In writing the book, I conducted interviews with survivors, and I also read a lot of the history. I was particularly interested in the sons and daughters of those who had been tortured, imprisoned, or murdered–kids like my cousins and my childhood playmates. So it was a composite both of doing research and of remembering family stories.

Q. In what ways did having a real, historical context make the writing process more difficult, and in what ways did it make it easier?

A. When people ask me about writing historical fiction or writingfiction–what do I prefer? which is harder?–I think each kind of book presents its own type of challenges. Certainly knowing the general landscape of what has happened gives you a story that has already somehow been charted. The challenge becomes how to tell the story within that charted landscape. But in a story that is mostly fictionalized, you have to map out that landscape in your head. In actual fact, these two categories are often mixtures: what you've read, what you know of history, and what has happened help structure the totally fictionalized story; and what you imagine and invent and embellish helps fictionalize the historical story–otherwise you'd be a historian instead of a novelist.

Q. What is the political situation in the Dominican Republic today, in 2003?

A. We now have a working democracy with all the ills attendant to the fact that it's a young democracy. We don't have a long and tested tradition of civic participation and public service. Enfranchisement takes time; it's not just a revolution happening, and then, okay: we're free! You have to build that habit of freedom over generations, that sense of empowerment that comes with believing that your vote counts; that you, the citizens, are the ones in charge of your country; that politicians are serving you, not themselves. We're still trying to make it work, but I think that the dedication to making it work is what makes a democracy. So in some ways you can say the sacrifice that these men and women and their families made to bring about this freedom has been successful.

Q. In the book Anita's parents insist on staying in the country to fight for change. Have you continued to be committed to and involved in the future of the Dominican Republic? Do you view the writing of this book as a part of that commitment?

A. Definitely. My husband and I now have an organic coffee farm [in the Dominican Republic that is] part of a cooperative of small farmers trying to save the land from erosion and pesticides. We set it up as a foundation so that the proceeds from the sale of our coffee go to fund a school on the farm. We did this when we realized that none of our neighbors could read or write: ninety-five percent illiteracy in that area! I feel so very lucky to have the opportunities we have in this country. But we can't stop there. We have a responsibility to those who are less lucky. I know I feel a special commitment to those who stayed behind in my native country, fighting for freedom and opportunities. The other way I'm still involved in my native land is by writing. I think of myself very much as an all-American writer: my roots, my rhythms, my history, my background come from the southern part of the Americas. The language that I've learned to craft and the life that I've constructed, by historical accident because of my parents' emigration, come from the northern part of the Americas. I combine both of those traditions. In fact, you might notice how sometimes in answering these questions, I'll say "we," meaning the Dominican Republic, or "we," meaning the United States! But ultimately, the commitment is to all of us in the human family. I really feel that as a writer, my "job" is to add to that treasure box of all our stories and poems and songs, which belongs to all of us.
Q. We often forget that through all major historical and political events, ordinary people, including children, are living their lives. What do you think is the effect on children who live in places that are politically unstable, or marked by violence and strife?

A. We often think of the victims of oppression as the actual martyrs and heroes–grown men and women who might form part of a freedom-fighting group or who are forced into hiding. But there are invisible victims and casualties: the children who are growing up in these repressive and terrifying and violent situations, who are robbed of their childhood. They don't ever get the opportunity to be children, to be nurtured, to have faith in freedom and trust in goodness, to enjoy that innocent sense of possibility and promise. And, of course, many of these children endure immediate losses: fatherless and motherless and auntless and uncleless children left behind when we destroy families, the fabric of a society.

As Americans, I think we're very aware of the genocide and destruction that happened in Europe, the young casualties of the Holocaust, all those World War II children for whom UNICEF was originally created. But we're less knowledgeable about what happened in our own hemisphere in the second half of the last century: the dozens of dictatorships and repressive regimes that afflicted the South American countries. In 1972 there were only three democracies in all of Latin America. That's not so long ago, you know! In reviewing historical fiction for young readers, I found many powerful narratives on the Holocaust, on slavery in this country, but I could find very little for young people about our own hemisphere's recent history. That was what really pushed me to write Before We Were Free. I wanted to tell the story of our Anne Frank on this side of the Atlantic.

Q. As the situation in the story becomes increasingly grave, Anita becomes almost silent. As you wrote this, did you view Anita's reaction as typical, as well as symbolic?

A. You do things sometimes as you write out of a writerly instinct–something will feel right or seem in character, but you don't think about it analytically. I remember reading memoirs by survivors and reports of children who have suffered trauma–I remember being struck by how some of these victims responded with silence. I have a sister who works in Boston with Latin American refugees, many of whom have survived the burning of their villages, the torture and death of family members. My sister tells me that she knows that her patients are going to get better when they can tell the story of what happened to them. So the silencing of those who have lived in terror is not just an external thing; it's also a way in which the whole self shuts down. Anita's silence is symbolic of what is happening to her country.

Q. Obviously, the actions taken by Anita's father and uncle and their group are controversial and extreme. Assassination is a frightening form of political action. What do you hope readers learn from the events in the book?

A. It's very interesting that in the Dominican Republic, we don't use the word assassination in referring to Trujillo's death. We use a word you don't have in English: ajusticiamento, which means "bringing to justice." Dominicans feel that Trujillo's death was not murder; murder suggests that he was the victim of a crime. Dominicans believe that Trujillo was the criminal and the act of his removal was a just act. You have to remember that after thirty-one years of repression, there was no court of law or other institution not ruled by the dictator and his secret police to which Dominicans could go to address injustices. So assassination was the last and only resort. Of course, Anita is horrified because she has been taught murder is wrong, and here her own father and uncle are going to kill someone. And in a way, Anita is right. One of the reasons that I wanted to tell the story from a young person's view is that young people often bring a freshness and clarity to historical events. We might give assassination another name, but it's still violence. But what do you do when a situation becomes that intolerable, that extreme? Historically, people have had to take up arms in order to be free. Think of the United States, the patriots of the American revolution, that's what they did: they took up arms against the oppressor England. But now, taking up arms can mean destroying thousands of innocents, if not the whole planet. I'm becoming more and more of a pacifist. We've got to evolve other ways of addressing our differences and of taking care of our human family. One way to avoid violence is to be informed, to read stories that awaken us to problems before they become unbearable realities.

Q. At first, Anita is ignorant of the political strife in her country. In the small world of her family and friends, everything is fine, and she assumes everything is fine everywhere else as well. Is this a common assumption among young people?

A. Often, we can be informed about some problem, but it's only when it begins to touch us in a personal way that we become impassioned and convinced about the rightness or wrongness of a situation. In a dictatorship, for instance, where all media are controlled, the news is often suppressed. So until oppression affects your own family, you might not even know that things are "that bad." That's what societies that aren't free do: they separate us from each other's stories. That great American motto comes to mind: United we stand, divided we fall. Of course, now with the amazing technology we have, we can know things even if we aren't affected personally. Think of the war in Iraq, where we had embedded journalists–we were right there. It's a real challenge for all of us, not just young people: to look beyond our own self-interest. Robert Desnos, a French poet who died in a concentration camp, once said that the task of being a human being was "not only to be one's self, but to become each one." That's what compassion and freedom are all about.

Q. Can learning about others and becoming more politically aware really make a difference? Where do we start?

A. I touched on this in my response to your last question. I often think of that biblical phrase: "The truth shall make you free," and also that wonderful quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Young people as well as older people need to know the stories of their families, their communities, their countries, each other, because it's a way to be aware and experience the realities of others. In dictatorships, there is always only one story: the official story no one can contradict. All other stories are silenced. It's the knowing of each other's stories and the feeling and compassion created by knowing these stories that connect us as individuals to each other and make a humane human family out of different populations and countries and ethnicities.

Foreword

1. Throughout the book, Anita watches her mother to judge the situation in the compound. Her mother often changes her approach to Anita–sometimes treating her as an adult, sometimes as a child. Why do you feel Anita’s mother does that? How does Anita react, and how do you think she would like to be treated? Do you feel she is old enough to be hearing the truth, or should her mother shelter her more?

2. In the beginning of the book, Anita’s extended family suddenly flees the country, leaving only Anita and her immediate family behind. The family lives in a compound and is extremely close. What role does the family, immediate and extended, play in this book? Does Anita realize that not everyone has the relationship her family experiences?

3. Anita is at a stage of her life where questioning authority becomes a common occurrence. In this book, there are several different authority figures that are forcing her to behave in certain ways, such as the government, the opposition army, and her family. How does she deal with this authority? How does she get around some of the rules?

4. Anita and her sister have a typical relationship that most readers can understand. Does this attitude toward each other represent a determination to keep a certain level of normalcy in a very frightening and often dangerous situation? How do both of their attitudes change once the quinceañera occurs?

5. Discuss the importance of the compound in this book, specifically the loss of the family’s freedom to go outside the gates, as well as the areas inside the compound that were off limits.

6. In order to shield the rest of the family, Anita’s fatherand the group running the opposition speak outside of the house, not realizing that Anita’s window is right next to their meeting place. How did hearing these conversations affect Anita? Do you feel she was better off knowing the truth, or did the whole situation make her grow up faster than necessary?

7. After the compound becomes unsafe for Anita and her family, Anita and her mother secretly move to a safe house location and live in a closet. Compare this experience to historical events that caused people to go into hiding, to be detained because of their beliefs or nationalities, and to be threatened with death. Is there any particular person that she reminds you of?

8. Anita befriends an American boy, Sam. At her tender age of 12, she is divided between her child-like view of the world and her adult emotions. How does her ever-changing view of life affect her relationship with Sam and with her friend Oscar, who is from her country?

9. What role does American culture play in this novel? Specifically, discuss the quinceañera and the Sweet Sixteen rites of passage and the idea that Anita and her family recognize American holidays, such as Thanksgiving.

10. At the end of the novel, Anita has lost some of her family to the violence in her native country. How does she feel about the sacrifice that her family had to make? Does she truly understand the impact that her family made on her country’s history?

Customer Reviews

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Before We Were Free 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 89 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Abbey_Sullivan More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
AndrewShields More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Annod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A history I never knew about - great!
SadieReads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Before We Were Free" is the story of Anita de la Torre, a twelve-year-old girl living in 1960's Dominican Republic under the military dictatorship of General Trujillo.
Marared9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, this novel tells the story of a young girl whose family lives under the repressive rule of General Trujillo. Over the course of the book it becomes increasingly obvious that her family members are involved in resistance against the dictator, who feels free to take anything or anyone he desires. The family's fear for their daughter's safety when General Trujillo admires her and the increasing net that is drawn around the family as they attempt to wrest their country from the hands of the dictator are vivid and compelling, and for younger kids the pictures painted here may be too frighteningly realistic to be appealing. For older kids, though, Alvarez paints a thought-provoking and haunting portrait of a family living under a dictator. The book will lead to discussions about freedom, dictatorship, and repression, and will give kids a good sense of what it means to live in a repressive society. Highly recommended.
jenniferthomp75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A poignant, thought-provoking novel that will easily lend itself to a good discussion. I'm glad that I picked it for this month's MIP Book Club.Anita is almost 12 years old and living in the Dominican Republic. Some of her extended family has left for the United States but she and her nuclear family are determined to stay, even though the dictator is becoming more and more ruthless.While learning more about local politics, Anita is also moving from adolescence into womanhood. Her struggles, both internal and external, make for a moving book.Highly recommended to all.
kjarthur on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A first person narrative through the political upheaval of the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. Anita Powerful storytelling that puts you in the midst of her struggles, loss, fears, hopes and dreams. A must read!Used to teach overcoming struggle and difficult times. Also helpful to teach writing as a means to process and attempt to understand your struggles.
evet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully told, moving story of a young girl living in the Dominican Republic during the close of Trujillo's reign of terror. Slowly Anita learns what is happening in her country, how her family is involved in the revolution, and whom she can trust. Ending is sad and achingly true to life.
rfewell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book for children about dictatorship, new immigrants, and understanding politics and culture.
Wilcoxpat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anita is a 12-year-old girl who is a first hand witness to the Dominican Revolution of 1961. This first-person narrative told through the perception of a young girl allows the reader to see a revolution through the eyes of an innocent.. When Anita's cousins are hurriedly packed to leave the country this marks the end of childhood innocence for Anita. Soon her family finds the secret police parked in their driveway; the American consul moves in next door; and her older sister Lucinda is packed off to join her cousins in New York after she is noticed by El Jefe Trujillo, the country's dictator. Anita's finds out that her family is involved with the political resistance to Trujillo. The present-tense narrative holds the reader in its grip, as Anita moves from the healthy, self-absorbed world of early adolescence to a prematurely developed understanding of the world's brutality. Her step into puberty changes from a celebration to an additional fear: "I don't want to be a se-orita now that I know what El Jefe does to se-oritas." , Anita tries in vain to live a normal life, and experience the first flush of puberty and first love. Eventually, the noose tightens, and the family must go into hiding, from where they are smuggled to New York and an uneasy freedom. This book provides a glimpse into the world of those who live in a dictatorship.
rampeygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ms. Alvarez does a wonderful job of re-creating the story that she lived through. The tone she gives the character Anita is one of uncertainty but bravery. She portrays a young teenager who is learning how to be an adult during a critical time. Ms. Alvarez conveyed the message, that fighting for the right to be free, is the ultimate sacrifice one can make for their country.
cassiusclay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personal response: I didn't particularly care for this book. I actually found it to be a bit boring. I did, however, appreciate the cultural authenticity that it contains. The author speaks from a knowing perspective rather than one of speculation. It is unfortunate that the author has some of these terrible events as representative parts of her past. I do appreciate the ability to tell the story without having to tone down the truth for fear of offending people who like to pretend the world is always fresh and innocent.grades 7-10curricular connections:Latin american studiesgroup read
shumphreys on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book about a girl named Anita de la Torre, the niece of a rebellion leader trying to overthrow the dictator of the Dominican Republic during 1960. Her family is continuously threatened by the secret police, hunting for her uncle and his fellow rebels. The dictator threatens to steal her from her home. To escape this danger, her family desperately seeks asylum in the States but tells Anita she must wait to leave until the papers come through. Anita is distraught over the move - how can she leave her only home that she loves? At the same time, how can she stay in such an unpredictable and frightening battleground? Strengths - cultural richness (Dominican Republic culture and Spanish vocabulary), relatable middle school experiences, exciting plotweaknesses - mature content and graphic imagery (nonetheless, the book treats the subjects of rape, menstration, and murder, among others, in a responsible way)group read7-9th grade. wide appeal.
mcrotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Before We Were Free is the story of Anita, a twelve year old girl growing up in the Dominican Republic under the Trujillo regime. She struggles to retain some semblance of normal girlhood as her family is torn apart by the underground revolution. When her life is threatened, she goes into hiding, writing in her diary so a record will be left in case she is found. Libraries would find this book useful, as it gives an eye-opening look at Dominican culture, and especially the dictatorship and subsequent revolution. The book uses many Spanish words and phrases, which are usually translated, and traditions such as quinceaneras (15th birthday parties) are discussed. There are also interesting contrasts between the Dominican main characters, their American friends, and their Haitian housekeeper. In addition, middle school aged children can use this book as a history lesson, and learn about new concepts such as dictatorships and embargoes.
mblaze on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This historical fiction novel is set in the 1960's, on the small island country of the Dominican Republic. Anita De La Torre's family is among the leaders of a revolution to get rid of the country's dictator. Anita struggles to understand what it would mean to be set free. Julia Alvarez does a excellent job of making the 12 year old's perspective and voice be very believable. The suspense in the plot leaves the reader wanting to know more. Excerpts from Anita's diary also allow the reader into her innner most thoughts and fears. This book could be used well in a middle school history class that focused on types of government and the effects that dictatorships have had on people's lives.
mbergman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a young adult novel about a 12-year-old girl who, with most of her family, narrowly escapes the brutal dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in the early 1960s that many of her relatives actively seek to overthrow. It's a sometimes moving but often sentimental account that seems to me to talk down to its young readers.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez This is the memoir of a 12 y/o girl who tells us about the last days of the Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina dictatorship -- nicknamed "El Jefe." With the innocence that a young girl can give to the horrific events of a cruel dictator, we are given a "testimony" -- as the author explains. "There is a tradition in Latin American countries known as 'testimonio.' It is the responsibility of those who survive the struggle for freedom to give testimony." Anita de la Torre is almost twelve when the story begins in November of 1960. She's rushed out of school because her cousin Carla has to be rushed to the US. As she later learns, her uncle Carlos is wanted by the SIM -- Trujillo's secret police -- for conspiring against the dictatorship. As her uncle and his family leaves, her father Mundo de a Torre and his house/compound are searched a few days later. Anita knows that her other uncle Toni is in hiding also for the same reason. Soon, the American consul, Henry Washburn moves to their compound --Anita's grandfather had bought property in 1930 after a hurricane and built a house, surrounded by houses for all his children. The move brings some tranquility and security because the American consul has diplomatic immunity and the searches from the SIM stop. Her uncle Tony can return home as well. But as her father, uncle, and the American consulate plot to bring the dictatorship down, those 12 y/o eyes and ears tell the reader what all the secrets and meetings are for. As Trujillo is assassinated by the group led by her father, Anita and her mother are hidden at the Italian consulate, hoping they can get away. Narrated from the first person point of view, in innocent prose, this is the story of the end of a brutal dictatorship. It stats in November 1960 and it ends in November of 1961. In almost poetic prose, we learn how "It's scary being the ones left behind." As we struggle in today's world, this story of struggle and bravery is as meaningful today as it was back in the 60's. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read tjis last summer when i was in summer school and i liked it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago