In the mid-19th century, over a quarter of a million Chinese people were sent to Cuba and Peru as indentured servants. After serving eight years, they had the "option" (which wasn't always an option) of resigning for another eight years, but many did seek independence and fought for the freedom of all of Cuba's citizens. Then, in the 1870s, anti-Asian riots in California sent many Chinese-Americans to seek refuge in Cuba, bringing with them American ideals of liberty and thus bolstering the cause of Cuban independence. Amid all this, Antonio Chuffat, a young journalist, captured the spirit and voices of the oppressed Chinese living in Cuba in attempts to reverse their fate and change the country's use of forced labor.
Lion Island is the final installment of Margarita Engle's fantastic quasi-series of novels-in-verse about real life heroes who struggled to help Cuba fight slavery and achieve independence from Spain. I love the range of voices here, which highlight a part of history of which I was previously unaware. I am sorry to learn that this is the last book in this vein of her historical fiction novels, but I can't wait to see what she has in store for us next of her prolific, insightful, and lovely poetic histories.