Today is the official release date for The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. This book has quickly become a favorite of mine. Part of the reason I fell in love with this book is because having come from a Greek family and culture, I can relate to it very easily. Family and heritage are the golden threads in the tapestry of my life, and this book is full of both.
I also enjoyed The Red Umbrella because I love history and this story is told from a very realistic viewpoint of a typical teenage girl, in a not-so-typical situation, and therefore introduces readers both young and old to a (not so well-known) movement that is an integral part of our history as Americans.
It is the story of a 14-year old girl named Lucia who lives in Cuba in 1961. When Communist revolutionaries invade her hometown, Lucia begins to learn that there is more to life than clothes, boys and getting asked to the big dance. Lucia and her younger brother Frankie soon find themselves among thousands of other children being sent away to the United States in “the largest-ever exodus of unaccompanied children in the West” known as Operation Pedro Pan.
Lucia soon finds herself far away from her homeland of Cuba and in a temporary shelter before ending up in the middle of Nebraska, surrounded by strange sights, smells and foods. She has to learn how to embrace life as an American teenager while keeping hold of her Cuban roots.
This is a fantastic debut novel, one that will likely be discussed in classrooms across the country as it generates interesting discussions in several different areas. Each chapter begins with a newspaper headline such as this headline from The New York Times on June 8, 1961, “School Law Approved; Cuba Takes Over School Facilities“.
I know I will be donating a copy to my child’s school library!
Congratulations Christina on a fantastic novel that will make readers both shed tears and beam with pride!
To learn more about Operation Pedro Pan click here.