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Review: The Queen of Water by Laura Resau

Title: The Queen of Water
Author: Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango
Year Published: 2011

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 346
Rating: 5 out of 5

Geography Connection (my Google Reading map): Ecuador

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indigenas, 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.

Virginia quickly grows accustomed to the conveniences and luxuries of mestizo life. But promised pay and visits to her family are quickly forgotten, as is her boss' pledge to send her to school. Beaten and told that the sole purpose of indigenous girl is to serve, Virginia must fight to hold on to her spirit and humor. She teaches herself to read and write and performs science experiments in secret.

Review: My colleague at work suggested this book as one of her favorites and she is right; this is a real gem! I finished The Queen of Water in only two days, enjoying every moment with the characters, the setting, and the story.

I have never read a book set in Ecuador before, in fact I have had a difficult time finding books set in South America that aren't magical realism, a genre I have a tough time with. This book is set in the current day, making it accessible and relatable. I learned so much about Ecuadoran culture, from clothing to food, to lifestyle, to the racism that is pervasive against the indigenous people. From the moment they are born, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to health care, education, job opportunities, and equal treatment.

Virginia's story is one of pain, suffering, humiliation, friendship, family, power, and determination. I found myself getting angry at her "bosses", wanting to pull her out of their house when they abused her, cheering when she stood up for herself and crying when something positive happened in her life. A book that can elicit all of those emotions it a very good one!

I really enjoyed reading the author's note at the end of the book. The story is a novel, but it is based on the life of the second author, Maria Virginia Farinango! She lived this life, this story. Amazing!

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