BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems by Margarita Engle [in Booklist]

These United States are not quite a quarter-millennium old, but “Hispanic history in regions that are now called the United States spans more than five centuries,” Margarita Engle reminds in her essential opening historical note. With the island’s 15th-century colonization, “the history of the modern US begins in Puerto Rico, not Plymouth Rock or Jamestown,” she rightfully insists. And then there’s the history of “the Indigenous ancestry of mestizos on modern US territory [that] extends for thousands of years.”

Combining stories of historical figures (indicated by full names) with historical fiction (the characters identified by first name only), Engle gives glimpses of a vast and complicated past, meant to inspire further exploration rather than encompass an exhaustive overview. Starting with the pastoral Taíno of Borikén (Puerto Rico), Engle’s flowing poems progress through the centuries to today’s abandoned, post-Maria Puerto Ricans, DACA’s dreamers still dreaming, and survivors of school shootings.

Versatile narrators Tim Andrés Pabon and Frankie Corzo – both blessed with Spanish fluency – are ideal ciphers, facilely adaptive in performing Engle’s verses – adamant, angry, tenacious, celebratory, and hopeful – with reverence and resonance.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, January 1, 2020

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2019


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