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A Lyrical Biography Of A Cuban Slave Who Escaped To Become A Celebrated Poet Born Into The Household Of A Wealthy Slave Owner In Cuba In , Juan Francisco Manzano Spent His Early Years By The Side Of A Woman Who Made Him Call Her Mama, Even Though He Had A Mama Of His Own Denied An Education, Young Juan Still Showed An Exceptional Talent For Poetry His Verses Reflect The Beauty Of His World, But They Also Expose Its Hideous CrueltyPowerful, Haunting Poems And Breathtaking Illustrations Create A Portrait Of A Life In Which Even The Pain Of Slavery Could Not Extinguish The Capacity For Hope The Poet Slave Of Cuba Is The Winner Of The Pura Belpre Medal For Narrative And A Bank Street Best Children S Book Of The YearLatino Interest Such a good, but sad story It was interesting to see this angle of Cuban history It worked so well in poetry form I cannot.imagine it as a traditional narrative After devouring The Poet Slave of Cuba in an afternoon, I can see why it was awarded the Pura Belpre Award Based on his own autobiographical notes, Margarita Engle retells the story of Cuban poet Juan Francisco Manzano Engle was haunted by the life and poetry of Manzano and felt it s reliving could only be told in verse She captures the intense and brutal childhood of an enslaved child poet with her own poignant words and the haunting black and white sketchings of Sean Qualls Born into slavery, Juan is forced to live life as the companion and pet of his wealthy female landowner He is physically and emotionally abused by his owners and forced away from his real family Juan seeks solace through literature His owners use him as entertainment by having him recite great works, while still treating him with contempt and disgust in their inhumane treatment He is repeatedly shackled, locked into darkness and whipped at the whims of his captors Yet, somehow Juan is able to escape the inhumanity by retreating into his own creativity Secretly he reads, writes and expresses his artistry at every possible moment.The disturbing subject of Juan s biography is not easy to digest However, the barbaric nature of slavery is a part of history that must be studied The Poet Slave of Cuba beautifully recounts an ugly chapter of our past Told through the verse of several people, including Juan, his parents, and owners, Juan s tragic tale comes to life Readers of all ages won t be able to put this book down due to the ingenious storytelling of Margarita Engle Juan is able to extract hope in a life surrounded by cruelty a lesson we can all learn from There aren t enough stars for me to express how moving this story was Short, heartbreaking, and infuriating, yet somehow tinged with hope Off to find his poetry now. Such a tragic life, to want to be so possessed by his owner because of his gifts and to be so harshly punished for every little slight that was the over reactive imaginings of a cruel woman.Margarita Engle brings Juan s early years to life with her trademark lyrical prose, an elegy to the poet slave Juan Francisco Manzano.Juan Francisco Manzano was born into the household of a wealthy slave owner in Cuba in 1797.We know details about the early years of his life thanks to a collection of his autobiographical notes being smuggled out of Cuba to England, where they were published by abolitionists who hoped to raise support for their cause.He spent most of his childhood close to a woman who insisted he call her Mama, despite the presence of his own mother Maria del Pilar.Though he wasn t formally educated, he had a gift for language and poetry and despite the severe punishments he endured for continuing to express joy and suffering through his words.The woman who kept him initially allowed his mother and any unborn children to buy their freedom and promised Juan freedom on her death It was a promise rescinded by those still living after the woman s death, though his mother continued to try to purchase his freedom without result.The Marquesa is a bitter, cruel woman who even when inflicting the most grotesque punishment on Juan, still finds reason to blame him for her own suffering.Juan Francisco Manzano didn t stop producing spontaneous poems until very late in his life, after being arrested for trying to stir up a slave rebellion through his poetry and spending a year in prison That experience silenced his voice forever.His work is astonishing, bold, thought provoking, intelligent and lengthy Once you begin reading it you can t stop and I can see why both his work and his story haunted Margarita Engle for so long That she has been able to condense his experience and thoughts into this humble volume is a gift to readers young and old.The artwork in all her books is fantastic, this work illustrated beautifully by Sean Qualls.I recommend reading the original translation by Richard Madden of Juan Francisco s work, which you can access below Poems by a Slave in the Island of Cuba, Recently Liberated Translated from the Spanish, by R R Madden, M.D With the History of the Early Life of the Negro Poet, Written by Himself