Came out on March 8, 2011
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: ARC from Random Buzzers
Age Group: This is classified as “YA” but I think that it could crossover from older children to YA to adult
Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indígenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta—stupid Indian—by members of the ruling class of mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds.
In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with María Virginia Farinango to recount one girl’s unforgettable journey to self-discovery. Virginia’s story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.
When I recieved this book, my original response was “eh” because the description made it sound slightly cheesy and I didn’t like books like that. However, from the first word, I was hooked. Although the struggle of being between cultures was engrossing, I was also intrigued by her curiosity and confusion as she grew up. From watching her struggle with leaving her family to her horror at being beaten and controlled by the mestizos to her confusion about finding her place in the world.
During the first half of the book, I compared it to the first part of Sold where Lakshimi is naive and oblivious to the fact that she will never return to her village. She wants to just earn money for her family and is traveling to a different location where her experiences turn from hopeful to filled with horror. However, in The Queen of Water, Virginia does not want to go with the mestizos and of course, prostitution is not a part of the book. Similar to Sold is how Virginia is beaten and promised endless things that never are fulfilled. She is tricked into becoming, literally, a slave. But when the ultimate decision comes, will she be able to leave?
I recommend this to fans of Patricia McCormick’s Sold and Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. Even more inspirational, this is a real story about a real girl both struggling to find her place in the world and the strange wonders of growing up.
The second half of the book is mostly about Virginia trying to get an education and hide her culture. She is trying to blend in and get a career and prove her previous owners wrong about her being unable to hurdle the obstacles placed in her path. Later, when she returns to her family, she realizes that she does not belong with them either. She has been too long with the mestizos and has forgotten most of her culture and language. She must figure out how to blend them both because….if she doesn’t, where else would she fit in?
This book had wonderful description and a hopeful and inspirational story.
Recommended for anybody who likes: Sold, Princess Academy, Three Cups of Tea, Born Confused, inspirational stories, multi-cultural stories, etc,.
Possible book club questions:
Do you feel that Virginia should have run away from the mestizo couple who took her from her family?
Virginia is stuck between two cultures. Can you think of other examples from books where a girl is stuck between two seperate choices or differences?