Read The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle Online


“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.” Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the“I find it so easy to forget / that I’m just a girl who is expected / to live / without thoughts.” Opposing slavery in Cuba in the nineteenth century was dangerous. The most daring abolitionists were poets who veiled their work in metaphor. Of these, the boldest was Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. In passionate, accessible verses of her own, Engle evokes the voice of this book-loving feminist and abolitionist who bravely resisted an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen, and was ultimately courageous enough to fight against injustice. Historical notes, excerpts, and source notes round out this exceptional tribute....

Title : The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780547807430
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 182 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist Reviews

  • Camie
    2019-01-01 15:04

    This is a very short but beautiful YA book written completely in verse and dedicated to "Young poets who are in search of words " Margarita Engle has written a fictional account based on the true story of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda, ( Tula) a 14 year old girl from the nineteenth century living in the Spanish colony of Cuba who had the courage to speak out with words disguised as poetry and metaphor against slavery, the common custom which forced 14 year old girls to marry wealthy older men in order to increase the family's wealth and status ( which she refused to do, twice) , the right for girls to be allowed to read, and racism of any kind. Tula wrote two books of poetry about these subjects, as well as that of of unrequited love ( caused by arranged marriages) which were banned in Cuba but allowed in Spain where she lived the latter part of her life.If you are one who highlights books you will hard pressed as to which verses to choose."The Slave let his mind fly free, and his thoughts soared higher than the clouds where lightening forms." Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda. 5 stars

  • Becca
    2019-01-20 15:18

    *This review contains quotes from the book, but NO SPOILERS.*“Books are door-shapedPortalsCarrying meAcross oceansAnd centuries,Helping me feelLess alone.But my mother believesThat girls who read too muchAre unladylikeAnd ugly,So my father’s books are lockedIn a clear glass cabinet. I gazeAt enticing coversAnd mysterious titles,But I am rarely permittedTo touchThe enchantmentOf words.When Caridad and I peerThrough the bars of a window,We see weary slave girls trudgingAlong the rough cobblestone street,With enormous basketsOf pineapples and coconutsBalanced on their heads.Sometimes I feel as ifI can trade my thoughtsFor theirs. Are we reallySo different, with our heavyArray of visibleAnd invisibleBurdens?”So begins the true story of Tula, a courageous 13-year-old girl who lived in Cuba and grew up to be an abolitionist, told in lyrical verse.In Cuba during early 19th century a person could not speak out against slavery like one could in the U.S. Engle writes that “censorship was hard and penalties were severe. The most daring abolitionists were poets who could veil their work with metaphors.” So that a 13-year-old girl was writing and reading poetry that expressed different views than expected was an enormous deal.Tula was forbidden to read by her mother from an early age, but thanks to her father, learned to love it while he was still alive. Later finds solace in the library at the convent where she receives lessons on saints, as the nuns are allowed to read books that women outside of the church are not. Tula is getting ready to be married off to someone she does not know or love because it is custom, just as it is custom for girls to be uneducated. Tula explains to her mother she doesn’t wish to be traded off for gold, but her mother doesn’t understand why Tula is more interested in books than in ball gowns and popping out babies. She is worried that no man will want a woman who reads and is full of opinions. But Tula doesn’t want to “marry a bank account instead of a human.”So anyways, Tula begins writing poetry when her father dies. It is her hidden outlet in her oppressive world. In the convent library, Tula discovers the work of Jose Maria Heredia, a rebel poet, who inspires her to bravely resist her arranged marriage and to fight against slavery and injustice in Cuba. Tula writes,“I have discovered injusticeBut what good is a witnessWho cannot testify?”To me, that one stanza is full of so much raw emotional energy and is such a powerful testament to the obstacles that lie in Tula’s path. This stanza is by the nuns at the convent to Tula:“So many peopleHave not yet learnedThat souls have no colorAnd can neverBe owned.”Tula is distressed after she sees a woman leave her baby at the doorstep just because his skin is brown. The nuns tell her that most of the “orphans” there are not orphans at all, but merely discarded because some people haven’t learned everyone is worth loving equally.The Lightning Dreamer is a powerful and mesmerizing story. The verse flows smoothly and is never jarring. It is told mostly from Tula’s point of view, but also from the perspectives of her younger brother, Manuel, their Mama, their cook, Caridad, and Sab, a freed slave of mixed heritage that Tula meets at an underground poetry reading. It is interesting to have the different perspectives and Engle pulls it off beautifully with seamless transitions that keep the story flowing in the same verse yet are obviously different voices. It was very impressive.Overall, a moving account of Tula’s story and I actually, ASTONISHINGLY for me!, wished the book were longer.

  • Book Concierge
    2019-01-12 14:23

    Subtitle: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist. This piece of historical fiction is told entirely in verse, the medium which Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (a/k/a Tula) chose to voice her opinions on slavery and women’s rights. Engle gives us some insight into the conflicting thoughts and feelings of the young Tula as she approaches the age when young girls are given in marriage – or, as she puts it “sold to a stranger to ensure the family’s fortunes.” Her refusal to bow to this tradition earns her the scorn and ridicule of her mother and peers, and banishment to her grandfather’s plantation. She often expresses how she feels almost as enslaved as the slaves her family has to do their work. Engle’s poetry is moving and elegant; I marvel that she can convey so much in so few words. At the end of the novel she includes some historical background on Gertrudis, as well as some of her original poetry (in Spanish, with translation). I highly recommend this for everyone, but especially for young women.

  • Christi Tulenko
    2019-01-15 16:20

    A short little novel, beautifully written in poetic verse. The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist is a fictionalized biography of Cuban abolitionist, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda (nicknamed Tula). The story begins in Cuba in 1827 and focuses on Tula’s life as a teenager where she struggles to understand slavery, the practice of forced marriages, the oppression of women, and the denial of an education for girls (all considered the social norm). In a convent library (where she goes for embroidery lessons), Tula discovers the banned books of Cuban rebel poet,José María Heredia. The poems inspire Tula to write of the injustices around her. Tula became a poet, a novelist, a feminist, and an abolitionist, and was brave enough to speak up for those who could not.I loved this book in verse.

  • AryaTheFangirl
    2019-01-15 15:09

    I liked this book. I liked learning about Tula and I'm really looking forward to read some more detailed books about her in the future.

  • Shelley
    2018-12-22 19:33

    The Lightning Dreamer is a beautifully written book-in-verse about the life of a young girl growing up in Cuba. Tula is a girl who is more enamored with books than she is with boys which would be fine in the United States, however, she does not live there. When Tula becomes fourteen, her parents expect her to marry to better not only her station in life but theirs as well. But Tula wants nothing to do with an arranged marriage and spends much of her time expressing her opinions on freedom for women to friends and even her family’s helpers. She is fueling a fire which has been brewing for years but Tula’s words seem to motivate many to take action. Before beginning this book, I noticed it was written by Newbery Award Winning author, Margarita Engle, so my expectations were high. I was not disappointed. When I read some books which are written in verse, I feel as though something is lost because they are shorter but the author magically takes the reader deep into the mind and soul of this young girl. This book is great for junior high and up and is a great look into the world of historical fiction. I would suggest this as a starter book for those looking to try historical fiction and I would hope that teachers would promote this book for the fine piece of writing that it is.

  • Crystal
    2018-12-23 13:25

    Reading this for #bookbootcamp today was a pleasure. I am amazed by the woman this story was based on - Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-1873). She was a feminist and abolitionist in a time when expressing those thoughts was certainly dangerous. Margarita Engle created this novel-in-verse to express some of those ideas. Here are some of the lines that grabbed me as I read.[the 'she' is her mother who doesn't think women should read]She sends me to my silent room, where I spend quiet hours rememberingthe freedomto read. Beyond these convent gates, booksare locked awayand menholdthe keys.Some peopleare born with words flowingin their veins.Just as often, poetry is a freedance of birds in air swooping and dippingin surprising directions.So many peoplehave not yet learnedthat souls have no colorand can neverbe owned.All I needis paper, ink,and the courageto let wild words soar.- originally posted at

  • Kathleen
    2019-01-18 18:31

    Strong start, beautiful and compelling language. Not sure about the ending. We're considering it for a whole-class read in 6th grade.

  • Mary
    2018-12-25 15:22

    This was a beautiful verse novel, telling an imaginative account of the historical Cuban abolitionist Avellaneda. Left me wanting to know more about her life.

  • Amanda Lemes
    2019-01-12 17:05

    "The Lightning Dreamer" é uma ficção histórica sobre Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, uma escritora cubana que, na primeira metade do século XIX, escrevia sobre a abolição da escravidão e alguns temas feministas. Basicamente, escrevia sobre igualdade e liberdade."If she calls me masculine, I wearmy best lace, flutter a flowery silk fan,and keep myself silent, wishingthat I could openly state my truth:I don’t want to be a man,just a womanwith a voice."É lindo ler isso e saber que, na vida real, Avellaneda não se manteve em silêncio e escreveu, inclusive, uma das primeiras novelas abolicionistas na língua espanhola. É de encher de orgulho também saber que seu trabalho foi reconhecido e obteve grande sucesso mesmo tratando de tópicos controversos - não só para a época, visto que até hoje permanecem as lutas por maior igualdade para as mulheres e contra o racismo. Depois dessa introdução que "The Lightning Dreamer" ofereceu sobre a vida e a obra de Avellaneda - mesmo que com uma pitada de ficção -, mal posso esperar para ler o que essa mulher incrível escreveu! ♥

  • Kathy D'Amato
    2018-12-27 14:32

    Read this with my first grade grandson and it led to some wonderful conversations about social justice. I would highly recommend it as an introduction to those hard discussions.

  • Chris
    2018-12-23 12:22

    The Lightning Dreamer, a historical novel written in Margarita Engle's notable verse, is meant as a fictional biography of the Cuban Writer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, known as Tula. Tula's mother and grandfather have arranged a marriage to an older man in exchange for wealth when she's fourteen years old. "He's promised Tula's hand to the most powerful man in town, a rich merchant who won't refuse such a beautiful young wife, along with the generous dowry my father offers in exchange for the tidy arrangement." But Tula has other plans, and finds refuge at a convent/orphanage where she is free to read and write, and becomes especially inspired by the writings of Jose Maria Heredia, a Cuban abolitionist poet, who's views of independence influence the young Tula, and she refuses to marry the stranger. She is exiled to the countryside where she meets Sab, who she falls in love with. Unfortunately, he loves another, but the two stay friends. She eventually travels to Havana at the age of twenty-two to be free to write about independence and equality for all people of color and women especially, and writes the novel, Sab. The Lightning Dreamer is recommended for its historical fiction and metaphorical verse. Margarita Engle elaborates in her Historical Note and offers original writings of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda to the delight of her audience. Recommended for Grades 7-12.Notable Awards and Honors: A Pura Belpré Honor Book Winner of the 2014 PEN Literary Award for Best Young Adult Book VOYA Top Shelf for Middle School Readers 2013 list 2014 International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention An NCTE Notable Book for the Language Arts An ALSC Notable Children's Book for 2013 YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults

  • Jeff Zell
    2019-01-22 13:06

    The whole novel is set in poetic verse. Tula knows how to read and write but is forbidden by her mother to delve into written stories or poetry. It is a waste of time according to mother. Tula is a real historical figure. Engle offers a fictional account of how Tula came to realize her passion as a poet. Tula is Spanish and lives in Cuba. In the 19th century, Cuba was a colony of Spain. Slaves were used to do manual labor in homes and fields. Tula despised slavery at a young age. She also despised the idea of living in an arranged marriage when she turned 14. Twice she rejected arrangements of her relatives. She wanted to marry for love, not economic status. Tula eventually leaves for Havana. From there she makes her way to Spain. Tula is Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-1873). In Spain she wrote a book title Sab which persuaded people to question slavery and to not distinguish between people because of the color of their skin. Engle's poetry is a delight to read. Tula is the primary voice in the poetry. However, Engle gives voice to Tula's brother, mother, cook, and Sab. Through Tula we learn about what it is like to be withheld from education just because of her gender, be nearly forced into arranged marriages, be deeply frustrated by humans being made into slaves, and to know the deep pangs of love.

  • Merrilyn Tucker
    2019-01-05 17:29

    I loved this little novel written in verse. Tula, real name Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, is a 14-year-old Cuban girl living a life of wealth and ease. In 19th century Cuba, Tula was powerless: she had no money of her own, could not receive an education, and definitely was not invited to share her political philosophy. Tula's mother was eager to marry off Tula to a wealthy suitor so Tula's family could use the money brought in by the marriage to buy more slaves. This idea--as well as that of being married off for money--sickened Tula. She then took up her pen as her weapon, writing to criticize the institution of slavery and men's domination over women. Engle includes a bibliography and a Historical Note. Suitable for grades 6+, mainly so that students will have at least a beginning understanding of the history of slavery and of women's subservient roles in society.

  • Lynn
    2019-01-21 19:27

    This is a young adult book written in free prose. It tells the story of a real life person named Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanedo. She belonged to the aristocracy but refused to cooperate with social norms common in Cuba at the time. In the early 19th century, she learned to read and write by sneaking books from her father's library, getting help from her older brother and enlisting nuns at a nearby convent to support a secret education and access to their library. At age 14, she refused an arranged marriage and was shunned by her family until she agreed to give in. Time spent on an uncle's ranch allowed her to write two books of poetry recommending the abolition of slavery. The books were banned in Cuba but gained notoriety in Spain. The book is written in simple language and is very accessible to people learning English. I recommend it.

  • Ann
    2019-01-18 19:16

    I am usually head over heels in love with Engle's novels in verse for young readers. This is the first one that didn't positively thrill me. It is extremely well-written, but it didn't seem as passionate and inspired as her earlier books. Still, Tula's rejection of a forced marriage, and her assertion of the rights of women and abhorrence of slavery in Cuba circa 1827 is an important subject.

  • Edward Sullivan
    2018-12-28 12:33

    A beautifully written historical novel in verse about real-life Cuban abolitionist Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, nicknamed Tula. Wonderfully insightful about Tula's times and culture.

  • Cathy
    2019-01-19 14:04

    I can't recommend this book enough to readers of all ages. Lovely, Lovely.

  • Josiah
    2019-01-08 17:12

    "I think of my feather pen as something magical that still belongs to a wing. All I need is paper, ink, and the courage to let wild words soar." —The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist, P. 94 "I feel certain that words can be as human as people, alive with the breath of compassion." —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 26 Margarita Engle's poetry is the great glasslike wave cresting high over the ocean from which it rises, dark green obsidian torn to foamy shreds as it breaks under its own liquid weight, forever returning to repeat the majestic process again and again. Her words are all close companions to those words on either side, so intimately formed together that no surgeon's scalpel wielded by the steadiest hand could exact neat separation between them. They are a part of each other, just as each line is a part of the next, each page running into the one that follows like a waterfall pouring over into itself, and each set of pages leading seamlessly into the entire book. No one else writes like Margarita Engle, a soul of quiet consternation deeper than the most mysterious of still waters, an impermeable lake of enigmatic beauty. Who can divine the innermost thoughts of a literary mind such as hers, the goose that continues producing golden egg after golden egg, though we understand not the natural process by which it does? Many distinguished novels in free verse have graced the page beneath Margarita Engle's pen before, but The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist may be the finest of all. For in these one hundred sixty-seven pages is housed a bonfire of emotion so roaring and so raw, fed by the wood of untold millions of souls sacrificed in the flames of humanity's prejudice and injustice, that the intense heat of it is enough to make the reader back away from the book in surprise. There is hurt and there is suffering, sometimes without significant relief ever arriving, but most of all there is the sense that a greater good exists which is worth putting our life's full efforts into fighting for, even if we should not see the results of that lifelong effort before our feet permanently carry us up and away from this mortal world. There is greater good to fight for with all our might against those who would not have it, those who would trap us under the suffocating weight of their own intolerance and force us to live a life that is less than we deserve, a life mocked by the freedom of privileged others whom society deems worthy of such benefits. But freedom and equality, I believe with all my heart, are meant to be available for all, and no one anywhere can be truly, totally free as long as there are those still anguishing beneath the cruel tyranny of people who would rob others of the freedom and equality that are their birthright. A dreamer and poet can know no peace until the final rusty shackles of oppression are broken, and this is the great force behind the life of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, the central figure in The Lightning Dreamer. It is why this book is so worth reading."I have discovered injustice, but what good is a witness who cannot testify?" —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 39 "I leave the sad mansion to roam tangled jungles, tranquil orchards, dark caves, and my own silent fear of never knowing how to live in a world where I don't belong." —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 122 Gertrudis (thankfully shortened to "Tula" in The Lightning Dreamer) is at a dangerous age as our window into her life story opens. She is thirteen and living on the isle of Cuba, fast approaching the age of nubile responsibility. Her mother knows all too well what it means for a fourteen-year-old girl to refuse an arranged marriage, for she did so in opposition to her own wealthy father twice, and was disowned for her perceived impudence. Now she is the one trying to press her daughter into taking a husband she may not want for the sake of money, and Tula is miserable thinking ahead to years of veritable slavery to whomever her mother chooses to be her husband. Tula's wild ideas about abolition of slavery and feminist freedom seem nearly scandalous to her own awareness, but to her mother they must not be spoken of at all, for such boundless thought could easily be punishable by the state as treason. Why does Tula insist on bucking the tradition that has carried her people in relative peace for hundreds of years, refusing to gratefully accept marriage to a man who could bring her family great wealth, and take care of her for the rest of her life? But Tula has a different vision for her future, one that doesn't include marrying for any reason besides love. Without love to cushion life's pointy edges, how could the long years of being a wife be anything but misery to Tula? Her mind is sharp, scholarly in its bent, which is another source of shame to her tradition-bound mother. Tula's mother uses terms of intellectual praise as vile insults, as if she were calling her daughter something horrid and disgusting, but Tula does not see a girl having a mind of her own as a terrible thing. Why should she not be able to choose her own husband when the time arrives that she feels ready, instead of depending on those who only know her from the outside thinking they can make a better selection? “Why can't she see that no two people are exactly alike? Our hearts and minds are all different. Only our dreams share this same desperate need to rise and soar...” —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 51 As the struggle for her freedom to marry comes to a head, Tula falls into deeper and deeper consequences for her refusal to do as her mother wants. Her writing is beginning to bloom like the wild Cuban flowers, fertilized by her own rich thoughts and emotions in intelligently pushing back against her mother's demands, but writing about such rebellious ideas as Tula has is a dangerous thing on this island. Moments after writing a page and reading it out loud to the family cook, the only one around who identifies with Tula's discontent, Tula must burn the page, for if it ever was revealed that she harbored such insurrectionist thoughts against the law of the Cuban land, her family would not be long for this world."So many people have not yet learned that souls have no color and can never be owned." —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 69"But love is a wildly unpredictable hurricane wind, not a swirling blue ocean with peaceful shores." —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 147 Banished to the halls of an uncaring uncle's manor, Tula drifts into her most volatile emotional turmoil yet, as she falls in love with a badly scarred boy named Sab, who can only think of his own love lost to the insufferable constraints of Cuban social convention. Sab's affections are only for the girl who once loved him and whom he desperately longs to have love him again, but her mind is made up that no future can exist between her and her star-crossed desired, not as long as her marrying a man of higher station will free her family from the burdens of poverty. As Sab strains toward the object of his devotion, Tula's untamed yearning increases for him, yet Sab may never consider her more than a sisterly figure. How multitudinous are the hearts broken not by lack of love, but by love stored in the wrong container, love of the wrong size, shape, style or breeding, love that is not meager or missing, but simply not of the requisite material. And so the sadnesses of a long life lived against the grain of passionately held popular belief continue for Tula, adding fuel to the fires of her writing. Will Tula ever find peace with her family, or love with Sab or someone else who would see the beauty of her spirit and desire to share it for life? It's so hard to stand tall when no one else believes you're right, when the love you have chosen is invalid in the eyes of most others, and they regard you with scornful amazement at why you have decided to live in such a way. But Tula's life is not without a message of hope for us, the message that major social change is painful and takes time, often more time than allotted our earthly life, but an intergenerational team of determined pushers can move the boulder over time, and through their efforts, freedom can be achieved from that social despotism which it once would have seemed impossible could ever be overthrown. The most prolonged infringements on freedom and equality can be expurgated from history's pages. The worst injustices can ultimately be atoned for by the actions of today, which came to pass as a result of the efforts of yesterday. And the incinerated words of one too frightened to publicly speak his or her mind can live on in the hearts of freedom fighters who will never forget the sacrifices of the past made on their behalf. It is a wondrous world in which we live."No one else has ever seen me as I really am—an outcast, a wanderer, condemned to explore the unknown world of human emotions..." —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 148 Tula speaks against dual abridgments of freedom in her nineteenth-century world, and this makes her doubly treacherous to the Cuban hierarchy. Tula would have slavery done away with forever, granting liberty to the afflicted who have labored odiously under the wealthy because they were unlucky enough to be born into indentured servanthood. This cause of abolition is one some Cubans agree with, if not openly for fear of government reprisal, but it is Tula's other social cause that makes her a pariah, an island amidst a sea of others who don't see eye to eye with her at all. Tula craves the right to decide for herself whom she should marry, and believes all young girls should be able to grow up to do the same. Why should a good Cuban citizen be at the mercy of others' motives just because she happens to be female? Why should she not fully develop her intellectual capabilities as every boy is encouraged to do, and decide for herself the course in life she should take? Yet Tula is almost alone in holding these convictions, and there isn't much that is more lonesome than shoving back against the social tide when the vast majority of others believe you're dead wrong. It's a scary, sad place to be, and it can feel hopeless. Yet from the recorded words of the great poet Tula would become, we see that she did not feel utterly hopeless that her beliefs could someday be accepted by the majority of Cubans. Her poetry spits fire back at the establishment, eloquently demonstrating the validity of her position time and again. And people heard. People heard, and times changed, and Tula had a lot to do with it. Whether or not her mother ever would have agreed, she had reason to be proud of the daughter she ridiculed for her scholarly tendencies. She had great reason to be proud, and so do all of us who value the freedom sought by Tula and determine to redouble our own struggles against the slaveries that seek to ensnare us each in our own individual areas of life."I feel at home, choosing to live inside my own imagination, savage and natural, yet I also long to be honest about my desire to love and be loved. Am I an unearthly creature, part vampire, part werewolf? Or perhaps... poetry is my beastly mind's only curse." —The Lightning Dreamer, P. 80The difference between rounding my three-and-a-half star rating of The Lightning Dreamer up or down is essentially negligible; this book earns three and a half stars from me, no question about it. I just as easily could have rounded my rating up instead of down. Margarita Engle has crafted fine literature before, but I believe The Lightning Dreamer may be her most insightful work of all. I rarely find any book so emotionally searing as this one, every bit the equal or better of The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom, for which Ms. Engle was cited with a 2009 Newbery Honor. I strongly recommend The Lightning Dreamer to anyone who reads, period. I'm confident in this book's ability to change lives for the good."What more do I need? I don't know how my book will end. All I know is that love is not the modern invention of rebellious young girls. Love is ancient. A legend. The truth." —The Lightning Dreamer, PP. 166-167

  • Natalia F
    2019-01-20 18:06

    First picking up this book, I knew I was interested in poetry. I saw the title and was not sure what to expect. As I started reading, I learned that it was about a women's right to an education, to be treated equally and her right to choosing her own marriage. This was different than other poetry that I had read recently. I read about a girl named Tula who loved books, education and wanted equality. Living in Cuba, she would be seen as a rebel if this was known. I learned a lot about what women had to live with in the past and their journey to equality that is still going on today. Her mother who she called Mama had gone against her father's wishes and married a man she loved. After learning the affects on her family, her mother wanted to keep the ideas of books, love and an education away from Tula. The Nuns were the only women who had access to books. They would take Tula in and allow her to read for hours. While dealing with this oppression, Tula would use the "enchanted paper" that her brother secretly gave her and write poetry and magical stories. She read them to the orphans and her brother. These stories helped her fall in love with writing and made her realize how unfair she was being treated.My favorite aspect of these poems was hearing what her peers thought of this. Some thought she was crazy, some were scared for her but the most important part was that some were inspired by her work. I thought it was amazing to see other perspectives and how other women saw this inequality.There were not many parts that I disliked from this collection. One thing that I would have liked is to see more of her poems that her brother loved so much. Though some were shown, I liked how they were a metaphor for her life and what she was going through.

  • Lesley
    2019-01-19 15:21

    “I feel certain that words / can be as human / as people, / alive / with the breath / of compassion.” The Lightning Dreamer shares the story of feminist Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, known as Tula. The story follows Tula from 1827, where she tells us that “Books are door-shaped portals…helping me feel less alone,” to 1836 where she begins the first of her books to spread her hope of racial and gender equality.As a girl, Tula reads in secret and burns her writings as reading and writing are unladylikes. A13 she is nearing the age of forced marriage, and her grandfather and mother make plans to barter her for riches. The reader follows Tula through Engle’s beautiful verse as she writes plays and stories to give hope to orphaned children and slaves; refuses not one, but two arranged marriages; falls in love with a half-African freed slave who loves another; and at last independent, moves to Havana to be healed by poetry and plan the writing of “a gentle tale of love,” a story about how human souls are “free of all color, class, and gender.” The real Tula wrote that abolitionist novel and spread her hope of racial and gender equality. “Some people are born with words flowing in their veins.” -The NunsThe Lightning Dreamer reminds me of Audacity, Melanie Crowder’s verse novel about Clara Lemlich, another young girl forbidden books who became a feminist fighting for rights of people, the workers in Manhattan’s garment factories. Pairing these books as well as other books about strong women would lead to insightful classroom conversations and a study of the side of history that is too often ignored—her-stories.

  • Heidi Franco
    2019-01-16 17:12

    A book written all in verse. I have never read anything like this, the poems and the way it's written, it's beautiful. Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda or best known for her childhood name Tula (a 14 year old girl who lives in the Spanish colony of Cuba)talks about wanting freedom for all slaves, she talks about how a woman can't get an education but she breaks those boundaries by writing poems even though her mother calls her crazy. And that no rich man will ever marry her if they see her holding a book. But with the help of José María Heredia Cuba's first Romántica era poet, she finds her way. She finds her own wings she escapes and becomes Cuba's greatest abolitionist. I have never felt so inspired what she writes really touches my heart and I know that her words have influenced other people around the world

  • abby paige
    2018-12-24 19:34

    1.5 starsThis is an interesting story about a fascinating woman, but I had a few problems. First, I don't think I like books in verse. I hadn't read one since I was in middle school and read Ellen Hopkins books, but I wasn't a fan. I also think that this book focused too much of Tula's love interests, when the more interesting story is the things she does for herself, her writing, and her abolitionism. Since the book was in verse I also felt like we were rushing along, only getting a few lines about major events. Thus, nothing really seemed that important until I reached the author's note and realized that the book was over. I didn't really enjoy anything about the book itself, but I'm giving this 1.5 stars just because Tula is interesting and deserves to have her story told.

  • Caitlin
    2019-01-10 14:34

    I highly recommend this book to young women or anyone who has a desire to understand the struggles of a young female who aspires to write her own poetry in the early 1800s. The book is written in a poetic verse format and takes place in Cuba. It is about the life of a young girl, Tula, who dreams of stories and fairy tales. However, her mother, who sees it as something that makes girls ugly and unsuitable for marriage, does not accept this. Tula goes to the convent for her embroidery lessons. She discovers books in the convent library written by a Cuban rebel poet and gets inspired by them. This book shows Tula’s struggles with being accepted by her mother and her love of literature.

  • Brian
    2019-01-16 12:17

    I really enjoy novels in verse and was excited by the premise of this one, but it fell flat in a number of ways for me. Its reliance on exposition—an understandable byproduct of the first-person format—makes each poem seem like a reality show confessional without the intervening action. It's extremely repetitive, and the writing never varies between characters, so they all sound the same. There's no real sense of pace or movement, and all of the most interesting bits of this real author's life are stuffed into the historical note at the end. I wish I could have enjoyed the book more; I really wanted to like it.

  • Kim
    2019-01-10 19:19

    I love Tula's descriptions of words and books. They do set us free. I'm not sure of the intended audience for this. Most students in middle school have very little schema regarding this time period. It becomes even more difficult with the Cuban setting and exiled poets. There are so many wrongs to right in this little book.

  • Elena
    2019-01-08 12:23

    4.5Definitely one of the best if not the best historical fiction I have ever read. The poetry was beautiful and captivating, and the story itself was very thought provoking. It felt a little short, but that's probably because it was told through poetry. So glad I picked this up!

  • Jeanette
    2019-01-01 14:21


  • Sarah
    2019-01-05 14:17

    This wasn't quite what I expected, but I always enjoy Engle's work. A lovely, feminist read.

  • Jamie Olson
    2018-12-27 14:24

    The first half of the book was beautiful, but by the end the story fizzled out and seemed disconnected.