Friday, August 3, 2012

Hurricane Dancers

Quebrado is a slave on a pirate ship, named "the broken one" for being the son of a native islander and a Spanish army deserter. He has worked on ships on the Caribbean Sea for his entire life, and made himself useful because he can speak the native language of Ta√≠no and also Spanish. When his ship is destroyed in a hurricane,   he washes up on Cuba, along with pirate captain Bernardino de Talavera and brutal conquistador Alonso de Ojeda. Suddenly, Quebrado has the power and is able to decide the fate of the two men who have imprisoned him and countless other Indians.

I will read anything Margarita Engle writes, so was eager to check out Hurricane Dancers. Although it won the 2012 Pura Belpr√© Award, I did not love Hurricane Dancers as much as Engle's other works. In addition to poems from the perspective of Quebrado, Bernardino de Talavera, and Alonso de Ojeda, it also features the poems of young Cuban lovers Narido and Caucubu. The multitude of narrators dilutes the story; I wanted to learn more about all of them, so felt unfulfilled at the end of the book. The story of star-crossed lovers Narido and Caucubu would have been better as its own book, possibly a sequel where Quebrado makes a guest appearance. 

Despite these complaints, I always appreciate Margarita Engle's writing. One example of her beautiful verse is written from Quebrado's perspective:

"The life of a ship's slave
is hard labor and fists,
or deep water and sharks.

When I sleep, I belong to the land.
In dream, I work in a field,
planting roots in rich soil. 

In dreams, I feel like a spirit of the air,
riding my father's leaping horse.

In dreams, I feel free,
until the sun rises and my eyes open, 
and once again I must struggle
beneath the weight
of flapping sails
and heavy ropes."

Hurricane Dancers would have been a fantastic accompaniment to my class' study of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I wish I had read it a few weeks ago! I admire Engle's commitment to exploring her Cuban heritage and sharing it with young readers. 

1 comment:

  1. I felt the same way, this one just didn't live up to her others. I like your idea of a whole book on Narido and Caucubu. I would read that!


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