Across So Many Seas

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Across So Many Seas
Author: Behar, Ruth
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Time Period: Renaissance
Time Frame: 1492-2003
Geographic Area: Europe, North America
Country: Spain, Cuba, United States
Topics: Spanish Inquisition, Sephardic Jews, Diaspora
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age:Upper Middle Grade, Young Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2024

World History > Renaissance > Spanish Inquisition

"As lyrical as it is epic, Across So Many Seas reminds us that while the past may be another country, it's also a living, breathing song of sadness and joy that helps define who we are." --Alan Gratz, New York Times bestselling author of Refugee

Spanning over 500 years, Pura Belpré Award winner Ruth Behar's epic novel tells the stories of four girls from different generations of a Jewish family, many of them forced to leave their country and start a new life.

In 1492, during the Spanish Inquisition, Benvenida and her family are banished from Spain for being Jewish, and must flee the country or be killed. They journey by foot and by sea, eventually settling in Istanbul.

Over four centuries later, in 1923, shortly after the Turkish war of independence, Reina’s father disowns her for a small act of disobedience. He ships her away to live with an aunt in Cuba, to be wed in an arranged marriage when she turns fifteen.

In 1961, Reina’s daughter, Alegra, is proud to be a brigadista, teaching literacy in the countryside for Fidel Castro. But soon Castro’s crackdowns force her to flee to Miami all alone, leaving her parents behind.

Finally, in 2003, Alegra’s daughter, Paloma, is fascinated by all the journeys that had to happen before she could be born. A keeper of memories, she’s thrilled by the opportunity to learn more about her heritage on a family trip to Spain, where she makes a momentous discovery.

Though many years and many seas separate these girls, they are united by a love of music and poetry, a desire to belong and to matter, a passion for learning, and their longing for a home where all are welcome. And each is lucky to stand on the shoulders of their courageous ancestors.

Emily's Reviews

"The past is a lost country. You can only imagine it like a dream."

Jewish history tends to be murky. Many of us can only trace our roots back a generation or two, either because of sorrows our elders don't want to pass down or our records being destroyed as we flee from country to country. So to read a book tracing a Sephardic Jewish family over the many generations after their expulsion in 1492 was something I was very excited to read.

This book is a beautiful tribute to that murky past and gives us a chance to see history through the eyes of four 12-year-old girls, each living through a turbulent time in history. It's a story about faith and family bond, and finding and making a home. I loved that we were able to read so much history in such a short book.

I think this book would be best for ages 9+

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