I absolutely adored Aida Salazar’s first novel, The Moon Within, and I had the joy of speaking with her for an interview with my employer this summer. Miss Salazar was so kind as to send me a copy of The Land of the Cranes, and I loved this moving book of poems, telling the story of Betita and her family, even more.

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The summary, from Amazon:

From the prolific author of The Moon Within comes the heart-wrenchingly beautiful story in verse of a young Latinx girl who learns to hold on to hope and love even in the darkest of places: a family detention center for migrants and refugees.

Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.

Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?

Buy The Land of the Cranes here.

Encuentra la dulzura en tu lucha.
Find the sweetness in your struggle.

What moving and optimistic words from Betita’s Papi within the first pages of this novel. Throughout her experience, Betita struggles at times to do this, and it is only understandable, and yet Aida Salazar paints such a moving portrait of Betita and her mother’s stay at a detention camp that the reader is able to see the sweet moments as well as the pain.

Betita’s happy life in LA is disrupted when her father is deported to Mexico. Her family fled the country when a cartel killed Betita’s uncle and threatened their lives as well. Betita was just a baby and does not remember life before LA. While this in itself is a terrible experience, Betita and her mother are soon sent to a detention camp where they must sleep, caged, uncomforted, with many other women and children. Betita’s father raised her on the traditional stories of how Mexico was founded, and she believes that she, her families, and other immigrants are cranes, though their wings have been clipped. Throughout their stay, Betita and her mother meet a number of other characters, including cruel guards, a family who has had some harrowing experienced before arriving at this camp, and a young, passionate Dreamer (DACA recipient). Betita expresses herself through picture poems, the illustrations and words of which we see throughout this book. She continues to create these images in the camp as proof to use in an eventual trial, and to empower other detainees.

Wow, what a powerful read. I flew threw this book in one sitting over the course of an hour and a half. I simply could not put it down. The poems are beautiful, as are the illustrations. It is painful to know that my country’s government puts people through experiences like this. I love that Aida Salazar has written a book that draws attention to the detainment camps and the inhumane way individuals there, especially children separated from their parents, are treated. It’s a heavy topic, perhaps even more so for young readers, but timely and important. This could also be a relatable and comforting read to a child who has been in a detainment camp or has a loved one who has been detained or deported. This was a clear 5 star read, and I must thank the author for sending me a copy.

Finally, I promise that any income I see from affiliate links on this post will be donated to Freedom for Immigrants. Freedom for Immigrants is an organization that takes calls from those in detention centers and their loved ones to report abuse and provides funds for detained immigrants in need of cash bonds.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

The Land of the CranesThe Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I whipped through this book of poems, telling the story of Betita and her family, in one sitting. Betita and her mom are sent to a detention camp after her father is deported to Mexico. This is a powerful read, and I liked it even more than the author’s first novel, The Moon Within.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Is Betita able to find the sweetness in her struggle throughout this entire novel? Give examples.
  2. Which poem was your favorite?
  3. Aida Salazar uses traditional Mexican stories in this novel (and has used Mayan stories in her other book, too) as a form of entertainment and symbol of pride for her characters. How does Betita relate the cranes from her story to her experiences throughout this book?
  4. Create your own picture poem to express how this book made you feel, or how you are feeling in general.

Interested? Buy The Land of the Cranes.
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