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The Queen of Water


Starred Review In a desperately poor Andean village in Ecuador, 7-year-old Virginia is sold off by her indgena (Indian) parents as a servant to an academic, mestizo family. In her new home, the wife beats her, the husband gropes her, and she is insulted as a longa tonta (stupid Indian). Still, she teaches herself to read and write and begins to perform science experiments in secret. Then, when she is 12, she finally gets a chance to return to her parents: But does she want to? And do they want her? Virginia does travel back to her indgena family, but there is not the expected sweet reunion. Ashamed of her illiterate parents and bitter that they gave her away, Virginia is uncomfortable in the family's mud-walled shack, where she cannot speak the language and hates the hard work. Could she go back to being enslaved in the mestizo family's clean prison? Rooted in Farinango's true story, the honest, first-person, present-tense narrative is occasionally detailed and repetitive, but it dramatizes the classic search for home with rare complexity and no sentimentality or easy resolutions. Virginia's conflicts with her birth parents and her employers are heartbreaking, even as she finds a way to attend school and shape a more hopeful future. A moving, lyrical novel that will particularly resonate with teens caught between cultures. Grades 8-12.

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Tags: indgena, family, Indian, parents, Virginia, Queen