Candlewick Press, 2017
Audience: Older Children, Younger Teens
When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro's army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Lora has barely been outside of Havana -- why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody's kitchen? But Lora is stubborn: didn't her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Lora's abuela takes her side, even as she makes Lora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Lora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen's coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author's note and a timeline of Cuban history.
I learned a lot from My Brigadista Year. Because I took so many Spanish classes, I have a particular interest in Hispanic culture and I enjoyed how focused Paterson’s book was. To me, those are always the most interesting historical fiction books. I can’t imagine leaving home at 13 to teach someone else how to read in a dangerous environment! However, I didn’t feel like I really got to know the characters well. So overall, it was ok.