Review of Cuba in My Pocket

Cuba in My Pocket
by Adrianna Cuevas
Intermediate, Middle School    Farrar    288 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-374-31467-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-31468-2    $9.99

Twelve-year-old Cumba Fernandez carries an unlucky double-nine domino, la caja de muertos, or the “dead man’s box,” in his pocket as a reminder that “there are worse sources of bad luck than a little white tile.” It’s April 1961 in Santa Clara, Cuba, and the Cuban exiles fighting to overthrow Fidel Castro have failed in their mission, leaving families like Cumba’s who sided with the former president Batista vulnerable to incarceration and violent subjugation. In order to avoid the threat of mandatory military training in Russia, Cumba’s parents decide to send him to the United States. Cuevas’s (The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez) skillful first-person present-tense narrative follows Cumba’s experience of separation from his loved ones; his adjustment to life in Miami as a refugee; and ultimately his reunion with his family in the United States. Cuevas furthers this insider perspective with letters between Cumba and his little brother, Pepito. Incorporating elements from her father’s experiences as a Cuban exile and child refugee, the author tells a larger, complicated story about the ways children navigate the geopolitical forces that compel families to make hard choices to ensure their survival.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Lettycia Terrones

Lettycia Terrones is a PhD student in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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