The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle

The Firefly letters by Margarita Eagle

The Firefly Letters by Margarita EagleISBN: 1429959452

Title: The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Series: ——

Author: Margarita Engle

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Publishing Date: March 16th 2010

Format: ebook

Number of Pages: 160

Genre: Poetry, Historical Fictionpicsart_10-17-10.23.40.jpg

The freedom to roam is something that women and girls in Cuba do not have. Yet when Fredrika Bremer visits from Sweden in 1851 to learn about the people of this magical island, she is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Soon Elena, the wealthy daughter of the house, sneaks out to join them. As the three women explore the lush countryside, they form a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.

In this quietly powerful new book, award-winning poet Margarita Engle paints a portrait of early women’s rights pioneer Fredrika Bremer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life.

The Firefly Letters is a 2011 Pura Belpre Honor Book for Narrative and a 2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.PicsArt_10-17-10.29.10

Frederika and I

feel like heroines in a story,

following people around

buying captive fireflies

and setting them free.

I highlighted a pretty huge part of this book. That’s how much I loved it. This was such a quick read that left me gasping after turning the very last page and finding “historical note” instead of another POV from another character. Oh how I wish there was more!

Three girls from two completely different worlds met. One girl with freedom, two girls with none. This book gave me such a different experience I totally wasn’t expecting to get when I decided to read this.

This is a novel in verse set in Africa and Cuba and it is told in 4 point of views; Frederika’s, Cecilia’s, Elane’s and Beni’s.

I loved every character in this book and the story they all tell. They all clearly represent different personalities and stories. For you to better understand their characters, I will not describe them in my own words but instead I will quote some lines that will sum up what their characters are like:

Frederika, the foreigner from Scotsland:

I knew that I could not survive

as a half-starved rich girl

for the rest of my life.

Roaming the world

has been my escape.

I gave up my wealth

when I left my father’s castle

to roam, and to write.

Cecellia, an African slave who’s pregnant at the age of 15 because her owner made her marry at the age of 14 (as far as I can remember):

I was eight, plenty old enough

to understand that my father was haggling

with a wandering slave trader,

agreeing to exchange me

for a stolen cow

How can I ever manage

to buy my baby’s freedom,

and even if I could,

what would happen next?

Would my child grow up

ashamed of parents

who are slaves?

Elane, the daughter of Cecelia’s slaver and Frederika’s host on Cuba:

I have never imagined a woman

Who could travel all over the world

Just like a man!

Too soon, I will reach fourteen,

the age when I will be forced to marry

a man of my father’s choice.

The thought of marriage

to some old frowning stranger

makes me feel just as helpless

as a slave.

Beni, Cecelia’s husband:

“If I had been free

to choose my own wife,

I would have married the girl

I loved so long ago

before I was captured

by men with guns

who carried me to this island,

a world of noble horses

and human hatred.”

I loved how each of the characters tell their totally different views. I also loved the writing. It is simple and easily understood. It didn’t use words that are unfamiliar to some or too deep for someone like me whose first language is not English. I also loved and admire how this book showed the beauty of Cuba – its culture and its people – but also unraveled its horrific secrets at the same time. It shows both the beauty and ugliness of Cuba simultaneously. I admire this book for pulling that off. I just love the story in general. It was painful, it talks about the horrors of slavery of women and children in Africa and Cuba, but at the same time it was encouraging and hopeful and tells a beautiful journey – both of friendship and fighting for liberty.

Above everything, knowing at the end that this is based on real life made me love this book even more. Knowing that fact made my heart swell. Frederika, Cecelia and Beni are all real. Frederika was Sweden’s first novelist and one of the world’s earliest advocates of equal rights for women. While Cecelia was a slave she met on one of her trips to Cuba. Knowing this, imagining that all of those happened in real life after reading all those lines filled me both with dread, hope, sorrow and wonder.

The only minor problem I had with this book is that I think it was so quick that the emotions I felt were also fleeting. I felt different strong emotions, yes, it was just that some of those did not linger.

Overall, I really loved this book. The Firefly Letters is sorrowful, dreadful, but inspiring and hopeful telling a story of cry for liberty, women inspiring and supporting each other, knowing no boundaries in friendship and an eye-opener to the horrific slavery in the Africa and Cuba in the past. This is a quick diverse read that will leave you aching for more but also feeling hopeful in the end. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.PicsArt_10-17-10.27.505-flowers

PicsArt_10-23-12.34.48103963Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist, and journalist whose work has been published in many countries. She lives with her husband in northern California.

Find her on:

Website | Goodreads
PicsArt_10-26-08.02.43Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Have you read this? Did you love it as well? What are your thoughts about the characters and the ending? What is your favorite book that is based on real life? What is your favorite novel in verse? Share your thoughts below!


4 thoughts on “The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle

    1. Oh my god lol same??? I find it really hard to write poetry. Ahh there are tons of beautiful lines like those in the book! ❤

      AHhh thank you, Sophia! I hope you'll be able to read it too! ❤


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