Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

“The Red Umbrella” by Christina Diaz Gonzalez and “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia


Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

Ay, Dios Mio, another beautiful surprise. I kind of love this, actually, picking up a book, thinking — okay, let’s see. Then starting to read, not being so sure. Then, suddenly, the world and the characters of the story taking such firm hold of me, my heart starts catching the book’s words and storing them lovingly as though they were abuela’s diamond rings. “The red Umbrella” is the story of a young girl and her brother caught in the midst of Castro’s revolution in Cuba, the way the politics tore into friendships and family and destroyed a country. It is a complex story that leaves no simple answers, told sparingly and masterfully. When I read the end, I had actual goosebumps crawling up my arms. I don’t know much about Cuba, except for the long-ago things I had heard growing up in Soviet Russia, how they were our great comrades and how their success meant the continuing triumph of socialism. But having finished this deeply felt story, I didn’t even need the afterword. I have learned it all through the characters’ fictional lives and emotions that felt so true.  


Two “book impressions” for the price of one today, because there are just so many great ones being released this year!


Amistad (HarperCollins, 2010)

How can one decade, the 1960s inspire so many views of what life was like? Reading this book made me wish I were a black girl growing up in the summer of 1968. Crazy, I know!

The oldest of three sisters, tough and protective 11-year-old Delphine recounts a crazy summer she and her younger siblings spent with their poetess mother who had abandoned them many years ago and seemed to want nothing to do with them, still.

I love it when I am a little skeptical opening the book, and then page by page, the story wins me over. I love it when you don’t need no history lesson to feel the crazy exciting dangerous times under your skin as you read. I love it when you think you have a sense of who the main character is, but then you read more and get deeper, discovering surprises along the way. This book didn’t answer all of the questions it raised, but it sure took me on one crazy journey!


P.S. I read this book in one day. When I finished the last chapter, if there was more, I would have kept right on going, straight into the night!  🙂


August 12, 2010 - Posted by | Book Impressions | , , , , , , ,


  1. I read The Red Umbrella a few months ago. It also gave me goosebumps. I’m not familiar with One Crazy Summer, but I added it to my wish list.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | August 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. Right? … I am glad you are finding my recommendations useful!!:)I’m done putting together my list, by the way. Can’t wait to post it — coming soon!!!

    Comment by Katia Raina | August 13, 2010 | Reply

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