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Book Review: The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

I’ve always wished that books could come alive. Unfortunately, this book is based on true events which are better off in nightmares. The Red Umbrella, is a work of historical fiction by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. It is based on the Cuban revolution in 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power.

In this book, a mass smuggling operation to save children from Fidel Castro’s clutches comes alive. The main characters are, Lucia, a 14 year old girl, and her brother, 7 year old Frankie. The communist ruling had just started. The communists had already begun to wreak havoc. Fidel Castro had Cuba in the palm of his hand. Castro was the communist leader, who wanted children to be involved in the government affairs as well. They would join the meetings, and would be sent out in brigades to training camps. Few parents, such as Lucia’s, didn’t want this fate for their children. Fernando, Lucia’s father, tried to make things seem as if their family didn’t oppose the government.

People who openly opposed were executed. Castro had announced that families should send all their belongings to the government, where it could be sold, and the money could be used by the government. Fernando had hidden the family’s valuables in the house. Lucia’s family were betrayed by Antonio, Fernando’s brother. Fernando, along with the family’s valuables, were taken into police custody. After his run-in with the law, Fernando wanted nothing to do with the communists.

At this point, the birth of “Operation Pedro Pan” took place. This operation was dedicated to sending children abroad to the United States or other countries, where it was safe. The children would be received by family, friends or taken into foster homes. When Castro would no longer have power over Cuba, the parents would be able to be reunited with their children. Lucia and Frankie knew there was no other choice. But, Lucia despised the idea of going abroad alone. Lucia put on a brave face for her brother’s sake, and boarded the flight to Miami. Miami brought a sense of hope, yet the unmistakable stench of fear still lingered. It was a land of the unknown.

This book affected me because Lucia was my age. I felt pity for Lucia because she was forced to witness and experience many gruesome things. She witnessed Doc Muchado’s body hanging on display in the park, and she had to witness her own father getting prosecuted. She was forced to flee her home, the only thing she ever knew. I know going through your teenage years is confusing enough, but having all this on top of that is even worse. I found myself affected by this, because knowing that this is a true event, knowing that this actually happened, makes my own problems feel insignificant for the time being. People who didn’t support the communists were executed. They were forced to abide by an opinion which they didn’t believe. This continues to be a problem.

I liked this book because the author wrote this historical fiction based on an event which is personal to her. She expressed the emotions of the children and the parents well. I would recommend this book to readers in the age group 13 years and above.

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Nivrithi Atluri

7, CHIREC International School, Hyderabad, Telangana

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