Julia Alvarez tells the story of 12-year-old Anita, whose family joins the resistance against Dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic during the 1960’s. While coping with the early stages of puberty, Anita also grapples with the concepts of justice and freedom as General Trujillo, “El Jefe”, and the secret police terrorize her family.
It’s a novel written for all ages that illuminates a history too often forgotten by Americans and the rest of the world. Regarding the political reality that her own family lived through, Alvarez writes– “As Americans, I think we’re very aware of the genocide and destruction that happened in Europe, the young casualties of the Holocaust, all those World War II children for whom UNICEF was originally created. But we’re less knowledgeable about what happened in our own hemisphere in the second half of the last century: the dozens of dictatorships and repressive regimes that afflicted the South American countries. In 1972, there were only three democracies in all of Latin America…I wanted to tell the story of our Anne Frank on this side of the Atlantic.”
Before We Were Free honors the children who had no choice but to fight for their psychological and physical freedom while their mothers and fathers risked everything for the ajusticimiento.