“Apparently the length of a grown-up’s growing up story is determined by the difference between immigration and escape.” Enchanted Air, Margarita Engle.
The narrator of this memoir in verse travels through childhood, accompanied by her family and her dreams of the person she is or might be. She is Cuban and American and Ukrainian, quiet and bold and scared and daring. She lives her childhood intensely and colorfully on family trips to Cuba until the Cuban Missile Crisis brings FBI men and questions about loyalty and nasty comments from teachers.
Seeing the impact of global conflict on this one young person’s life brings a whole different level of clarity to current issues, too. It’s not a big stretch to read this and think of how being a refugee in Sudan or Syria or any number of other places could affect a child. Whether a refugee, an immigrant, or a child who sees herself as an outsider for other reasons, the world can be –in exactly the same moment — both an awful, humiliating, difficult place and one filled with beauty and song.
Margarita Engle’s story is captivating, because it so beautifully describes the excitement and freedoms of childhood, the joys of traveling to new places, and the challenges of living between different worlds. It also provides a great way to talk with kids about the history of the Cold War, the impact of politics on individuals, and the path we all travel in growing up and making choices about who we will be.