Books: Fiction

Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words

Book — Fiction. By Margarita Engle. 2016. 176 pages.
Story of three friends fighting for freedom in Cuba during the 19th century.
Themes: Latinx

Lion Island (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's HistoryLion Island is Margarita Engle’s final volume in a series of historical verse novels about the struggle against forced labor in 19th-century Cuba. Lion Island tells the story of Chinese Afro-Cuban Antonio Chuffat, who collected testimonials for China during their official investigation of abuses in the contract labor system. Professor Amina Chaudhri notes: “Margarita Engle draws attention to topics as diverse as forced migration, foreign policy, cultural blending, racism, poetry, love, peaceful resistance, and the power of words. This poetic glimpse into Cuba’s troubled past shines a light on an important human rights activist and will pique readers’ curiosity about Cuba’s complicated history.” [Review by Rethinking Schools.]

In a haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights. Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. Yet for most Cubans in the 19th century, life is anything but beautiful. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and nearly-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields. So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that violence will not be the only way to gain liberty. [Publisher’s description.]

ISBN: 9781481461122 | Atheneum Books