Enchant­ed Air: Two Cul­tures, Two Wings: A Memoir

Mar­gari­ta Engle; Edel Rodriguez, illus.
  • Review
By – June 22, 2016

We open on the sem­i­nal sto­ry: the Amer­i­can artist meets the Cuban stu­dent in Trinidad, and asks her to mar­ry him. Enchant­ed Air,” is the mem­oir of their younger daugh­ter, Mar­gari­ta, who flies between these two places, try­ing to under­stand how she can be from mul­ti­ple worlds.

In the woodsy home they make for them­selves in the West­ern Unit­ed States, she attends school, and learns of her love for read­ing. Here, her father’s Jew­ish fam­i­ly tells of an escape to the Unit­ed States where free­dom from oppres­sion was found. In the lush green hills of Cuba, sur­round­ed by her mother’s rel­a­tives and joys she knows nowhere else, she flies for­ward on hors­es but won­ders why there it seems the boys have more free­doms. Her mother’s land is not one to be escaped, but rather adored.

Read­ing this poet­ic mem­oir, it’s easy to fall into the nar­ra­tive and put aside the author’s awards to focus on the con­fused pre-teen nav­i­gat­ing so many famil­iar and so many for­eign waters. How can loy­al­ties be torn? Why are the things so impor­tant to oth­er chil­dren not on Margarita’s radar? Is she more like ancient cave dwellers who wrote poems on walls than like the pop­u­lar girls in school? Can she grow just as ful­ly once she can no longer vis­it Cuba? For a young read­er, age 12 and up, the awk­ward years of first kiss­es and how not to wear your hair are no less crit­i­cal than the ter­ror of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Mis­sile Crisis.

Just as you emerge from the world of these sto­ries with the final ques­tion: When?” recall that today Cuba is once again open for U.S. visitors.

Relat­ed Content:

Shi­ra Schin­del is the Direc­tor of Busi­ness Devel­op­ment & Author Engage­ment at Litographs and for­mer­ly the head of Con­tent and Acqui­si­tions at Qlovi, an edu­ca­tion tech­nol­o­gy start­up accel­er­at­ing lit­er­a­cy in K‑12 class­rooms. Before that she worked in the lit­er­ary depart­ment at ICM Part­ners, and stud­ied Cre­ative Writ­ing at Colum­bia University.

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