I feel incredibly lucky to live in a time when women’s stories are blossoming into all manner of media. Television, movies, and (for our purposes, most importantly) literature are now filled with female voices, and while it has begun to feel more normal, it still seems at times like a celebration. Why wouldn’t it be? We’re discovering half the world.
Part of that half involves stories that might someday slip under the radar. One of those stories belongs to Maria de los Santos y Castro, the great-great-grandmother of the author. Maria’s tale is not a thrilling adventure made for a blockbuster hit; it’s something better. It’s a stirring tale of a girl’s journey to womanhood, showing how she overcomes trauma to find new strength and is able to create a new home for herself. This beautiful book brought me to tears, and I have no doubt it will move anyone who reads it.
Maria de los Santos y Castro spent her childhood on Guam, surrounded by a loving family, but all that was ruined when her aunt Joaquina tricked her onto a ship bound for the island of Bonin. Before Maria could realize she wasn’t just saying good-bye to Joaquina and her new husband, the ship had pulled away from Guam, taking Maria with it and placing her in the hands of the cruel Matteo Mazarro. All the way to Bonin, Maria is raped and abused, and when she finally arrives, she finds herself alone in a strange land. This is where her incredible story truly begins. Rather than despair, Maria marshals her strength and finds a way to live with her new circumstances. There may not be any way for her to return to Guam, but Bonin doesn’t have to be the hellish prison it was at the start.
What makes this story even better is that it is based on real events. The author grew up hearing stories about her great-great-grandmother, and now that the family legacy has fallen into her hands, she has chosen to share it with the world. I think anyone can agree that the world is better for knowing this story. The book looks unflinchingly at the horrors of what life as a woman could be like in the past, but it also shows the strength women could call upon and the strong bonds of female friendship. This may not be the nineteenth century anymore, but those are two lessons we all need to learn.
|Page Count||176 pages|
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