Dreams from many rivers A Hispanic history of the United States told in poems

Margarita Engle

Book - 2019

"A middle grade verse history of Latinos in the United States, told through the voices of many and varied individuals ranging from Juan Ponce de León to modern-day sixth graders"--

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New York : Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company 2019.
Main Author
Margarita Engle (author)
Other Authors
Beatriz (Gutierrez Hernandez) Gutierrez (illustrator)
First edition
Item Description
Includes historical note.
Physical Description
v, 199 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
  • Part one: Freedom
  • Part two: Survivors
  • Part three: Independence for some
  • Part four: Heroes
  • Part five: ¡Sí se puede! Yes, we can!
  • Part six: For our lives.
Review by Booklist Review

Ambitiously covering more than 500 years of history, Engle brings an imaginative and personal voice to an impressive variety of perspectives. In an opening Historical Note, she clarifies that the poems of fictional characters are presented under a first name, while those of historical figures include a surname or title important, as readers will want to use this book as a launchpad into their own research of these real stories. Starting with the native people of Borikén in 1491 and ending in contemporary times, the poems tell of resistance to colonialism, of the courage and anguish of indigenous lives that were changed forever by the arrival of the Spanish, of the incessant greed, and of resilience. Occasionally, a real or fictional character is heard multiple times, giving a sense of the passage of time. Gradually, poems start to reflect political views, anger against racism and injustice, patriotic national pride, dreams, and desires ­Engle leaves no stone unturned. A useful supplement to Rethinking Columbus (1998) and An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People (2019).--Amina Chaudhri Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This urgent historical survey by Engle (Dancing Hands) is ambitious in its scope: to tell the story of the lands now known as the United States through a combination of Hispanic voices and fictionalized composites. Starting with the Native Taíno people of Borikén--present-day Puerto Rico--in 1491 and concluding with anti-gun activist Emma González in 2018 Florida, the collection, told in verse, is divided into six parts that track the ebb and flow of borders and their impact on the colonized and occasionally the conquistador. Unfortunately, a lack of contextualizing details leaves many of the poems without clear historical anchors, even as they lean on expository lines ("My wife is the granddaughter of Hernán Cortés,/ who conquered the Aztec emperor Moctezuma") that outnumber resonant moments. Hernandez's muralistic illustrations--peopled landscapes, representative maps--provide some emotional resonance. The work is stronger as one of curation, lifting unsung stories and centering Latinx perspectives--for example, the deportation of thousands of American citizens during the Great Depression. Engle makes a case for the necessity of bearing witness to both suffering and survival, and young readers might use her text as a jumping-off point for further reading--and for documenting their own stories. Ages 10--14. (Oct.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 5--7--Engle addresses gaps in U.S. history for Latinxs, particularly topics that some may prefer omitted from cultural memory and the school curriculum. She does so through her signature free verse poetry format, with the overarching narrative told from multiple fictional and historical, first-person perspectives. Starting in an idyllic pre-Columbian Borikén (now the territory of Puerto Rico), the title spans more than five centuries, with the remaining five parts of the work set in the United States. Some of these sections receive more attention than others, but Gutierrez Hernandez's illustrated U.S. maps coupled with Engle's brief introductions serve as helpful organizers, situating the subsequent poetic content geographically, historically, and topically. Although the author lays out the book's parameters, limitations, and questions it raises, the spaces of unstated details and time periods between poems require readers to have strong background knowledge or adult scaffolding for full comprehension. Resources referenced in the acknowledgments validate the vigorous research that went into the creation of this work--but unfortunately, do not provide middle and high school students with age-appropriate sources to answer their own questions after reading. VERDICT This title may be helpful to raise student interest and engagement in related social studies lessons, or as a mentor text for instruction in writing historical fiction or biographical free verse poems, especially given the paucity of coverage Latinx history receives in the school curriculum.--Ruth Quiroa, National Louis University, Lisle, IL

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Engle merges streams of free-verse poetry into a Hispanic history lesson spanning centuries.Beginning on the shores of pre-Colombian Borikn (Puerto Rico), Engle imagines the voices of the Tano as well as those of the colonizers and many diverse mestizos from across the Hispanic Americas to craft a poetic picture of Hispanic history that begins with a trickle and ends in a torrent. The author does not hide her point of view. She paints an idealized picture of Tano culturethe only explicitly Indigenous voices representedin which people lived in harmony with the land before the arrival of the Spaniards, a choice that elides the complicated history of the pre-Columbian Americas. As the story continues into the modern day, the featured characters demonstrate the wide variety of ethnic roots included in the multicolored tapestry of Hispanic culture, but there is not so much diversity in thought, as it largely celebrates those stories that align with contemporary liberal ideology. The retrospective look back reveals many narratives that seem to play on a loop as similar struggles are faced by successive generations and continue to this day, begging readers to learn from the past lest it repeat yet again. Within the authorial bias, the poetry is fluid and thought-provoking, and Latinx readers will find many narrative threads that will seem teased from their own family looms.A flawed but necessary history of a culture whose voices demand to be heard. (Poetry anthology. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.