Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book Review: The Queen of Water

by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango

This book for young adults is the fictionalized account of Maria Virginia, an indigenous Ecuadorian who is unwittingly sold into slavery by her parents at about six or seven years old. Her childhood is distressing but she is a remarkable girl who fights against all odds to overcome her circumstances.

The themes of this novel are for more mature audiences: slavery, racism, parents who make poor choices (though arguably out of ignorance), inappropriate touching, relationships with boys, and the growth of a child into adolescence amidst it all. They are all treated respectfully. Though we are often pointed to a particular point of view, there are also many instances of Virginia straddling different perspectives with confusion written with compassion for each.

While most young girls in our own country would rarely find themselves in Virginia's circumstances, I think her experience of profound isolation is one with which most adolescents would empathize readily. In particular, her relationship with her parents is strained but she realizes in the end that there is still something she can learn from them.

As a wonderful model for adolescence, Virginia finds her own way but does so by building relationships with supportive adults and loyal friends. She escapes her enslavement by reaching out for help and accepting it from her family. She seeks out someone in her town who will sign for her when she applies to secondary school and finds a supporting employer who provides a home away from home of safety and security.

This amazing woman is about the my age. As a mother, my heart broke over and over again for her and for her parents. I would unhesitatingly share this book with my daughters when they are older. (I would be careful mainly because of the justified fear Virginia feels toward the father of the family that controls her.)

It's not just a story about modern Ecuador, or a story about modern day slavery (in a world in which human trafficking has been discovered even in our own state), but a story of an emerging woman that will appeal to young women universally.

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