Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words

by Margarita Engle

In the 1840s, Spaniards brought Chinese laborers as indentured servants to work in... read more

In the 1840s, Spaniards brought Chinese laborers as indentured servants to work in the sugar cane fields of Cuba with African slaves. In the early 1870s, Chinese also came to Cuba from California, fleeing racism and racist-fueled violence. “California’s violence must be dragon-fierce / to make so many refugees seek new homes / on this island / of war.” This historical novel-in-verse set in 1870s Cuba weaves the stories of three young people during the war for freedom from Spain, and from servitude for Cubans of Chinese and African descent. One of the principle narrators is Antonio Chuffat, the “warrior of words” from the title, a 13-year-old Afro-Cuban-Chinese boy who is free. He works for a Chinese man in Cuba writing to newspapers and powerful people in China to protest the agreement that sent the Chinese into servitude in Cuba. Antonio, a character based on an actual person, meets Wing and Fan, two wholly fictional characters, brother and sister whose family came from California. The three young people each play a different role in the fight against servitude and slavery of Chinese and Africans in Cuba in this story that illuminates intriguing and important dimensions of history. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2017

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