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The Queen of Water
Cover of The Queen of Water
The Queen of Water
Borrow Borrow

An ALA Amelia Bloomer Selection
An ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book


Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indígenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta--stupid Indian--by members of the ruling class of mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds.
In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with María Virginia Farinango to recount one girl's unforgettable journey to self-discovery. Virginia's story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.

From the Hardcover edition.

An ALA Amelia Bloomer Selection
An ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book


Born in an Andean village in Ecuador, Virginia lives with her large family in a small, earthen-walled dwelling. In her village of indígenas, it is not uncommon to work in the fields all day, even as a child, or to be called a longa tonta--stupid Indian--by members of the ruling class of mestizos, or Spanish descendants. When seven-year-old Virginia is taken from her village to be a servant to a mestizo couple, she has no idea what the future holds.
In this poignant novel based on a true story, acclaimed author Laura Resau has collaborated with María Virginia Farinango to recount one girl's unforgettable journey to self-discovery. Virginia's story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.

From the Hardcover edition.

Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    5.4
  • Lexile:
    890
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    4

Recommended for you

 
Awards-
Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 Chapter 1

    Before dawn, I wake up to the sound of creatures scurrying inside the wall near my head. Mice and rats and dogs have burrowed these tunnels through the dried clay, searching for food scraps. I'm always searching for food scraps too. Right now my belly's already rumbling, and it's hours till breakfast.

    The house is dark as a cave except for bits of blue light coming through the holes in the earthen walls. My gaze fixes on a new trail of golden honey oozing from a crack, just within arm's reach. Bees live in there, black bees that sting terribly, but make the best honey in the world. I poke my hand in the crack and scoop out the sticky sweetness and lick it from my finger. It's gritty but good.

    Our guinea pigs are hungry now too, squeaking and dancing around in their corner, waiting for alfalfa. I can see every corner of our house from my sleeping place on the floor. Mamita and Papito are snoring under their wool blanket on a bed frame made of scrap wood. My brother and sister are curled up next to me—Hermelinda on the end and Manuelito wedged in the middle—and the fleas and bedbugs and lice are crawling wherever they please. My spot against the wall is cozy, the perfect place for licking honey in secret.

    Soon Mamita will awaken, standing up and stretching in her white blouse that hangs midway down her thighs. Then, yawning, she'll wrap a long dark anaco around her waist, golden beads around her neck, and red beads around her wrists. Then she'll open the door and a rectangle of misty morning light will shine into our house's musty darkness. Then she'll light the cooking fire and we'll all slurp steamy potato soup around the fire pit.

    If she catches me with honey dripping from my fingers, her face will twist into a frown. When people tell her, "Your little Virginia is vivisima!" Mamita snorts, "Humph, she's clever for stealing food, that's about all."

    It's true, I do use my wits to fill my belly with fresh cheese or warm rolls. Or to get something I really want, like a pet goat or a pair of shoes. But there's more. I have dreams. Dreams bigger than the mountaintops that poke at the clouds. In the pasture, I always climb my favorite tree and shout to the sheep, "I'm traveling far from here!" and my tree turns into a truck and I ride off to a place where I can eat rice and meat and watermelon every day.

    In the half-light of dawn, I plunge my hand deeper into the darkness inside the wall, searching for honey, dreaming, as always, of golden treasures.



    After breakfast, I'm in the valley pasturing sheep under a sky the dull gray of cow intestines, when Hermelinda appears on the hill. I squint up at her. The mountains loom behind her, peaks lost in heavy clouds. She waves her little arms at me, the wind whipping her hair in all directions. "Virginia!" she cries in her squeaky toddler voice. "There are mishus at the house. Mamita says to come right away!"

    Mishus are what we call the mestizos. It's a mean word, in the same way that their names for us—longos, or dirty Indians—are mean. With my golden goat, Cheetah, at my side, I climb toward home, urging the straggling sheep along with my stick. Feeling suddenly sick, I call out, "Hermelinda, which mishus?"

    "Alfonso and his wife and two others."

    I stop in my tracks. Alfonso owns the land my family farms. Lately, he and his wife, Mariana, have made a point of talking to me whenever they visit the fields, asking me questions, eyeing me up and down, then murmuring to each other as they walk off. Alfonso is the one who took my cousins Zoyla and Gregoria away from their parents two years ago. Zoyla and Gregoria and I used to...

About the Author-
  • Laura Resau lived in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, for two years as an English teacher and anthropologist. She now lives with her husband, her dog, and her son Bran in Colorado, where she teaches cultural anthropology and ESL (English as a Second Language). She is also the author of What the Moon Saw and Red Glass.

    María Virginia Farinango has acted in a television movie, had her own radio show, performed traditional dance, run an Andean craft business, and traveled throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. She is studying psychology and has recently started a small holistic day spa in Otavalo, Ecuador, where she lives with her husband and their young son. For more about María Virginia, please visit lauraresau.com/virginia.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 9, 2011
    This compelling collaboration between Resau (The Ruby Notebook) and Farinango—who met while Resau was teaching English at a community college—is based on Farinango's tumultuous upbringing in Ecuador as part of an indígena (indigenous) family, forced to live under the thumb of the mestizos (the Spanish upper class). As is common for indígena girls her age, Virginia is sent to live with a wealthy mestizo couple—in her case, Niño Carlitos and his wife, Doctorita—and she babysits their children and serves as their maid for eight years. While the living conditions are an improvement over her family's small farm, she endures physical and verbal abuse and is denied an education. Narrating in a singular, authentic voice, Virginia dreams of escape, but her broken identity leaves her directionless. Along the way, though, she employs her imagination, persistence, and hard-won wisdom to recover her strength and freedom. The authors' candid narrative richly depicts Virginia's passage from a childhood filled with demoralization to a young woman who sees her life through new eyes. Ages 12–up.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2011

    This riveting tale of an indigenous Ecuadorian girl being sent away from her family to work for a middle-class mestizo (of Spanish heritage) couple, this collaborative novel by teen author Resau and Farinango is based on the life story of the latter. Virginia is 7 when she is brought to the town of Kunu Yaku, where she works for years for a horribly abusive woman, her husband, Niño Carlitos, and their children. As Virginia grows into a young woman and Niño Carlitos transforms from a kindly father figure into a dangerous sexual predator, she embarks upon a path that leads her back to her birth family and eventually to a prestigious secondary school, where she finally begins to reconcile the many parts of herself. Bright spots of humor and warmth are woven throughout, and readers will agonize for Virginia while seething at her tormentors. The complexities of class and ethnicity within Ecuadorian society are explained seamlessly within the context of the first-person narrative, and a glossary and pronunciation guide further help to plunge readers into the novel's world. By turns heartbreaking, infuriating and ultimately inspiring. (Fiction. 13 & up)

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from June 1, 2011

    Gr 9 Up-Based on a true story, and told from the protagonist's point of view, The Queen of Water follows a seven-year-old indigena who was taken from her family in the rural Ecuadoran Andes mountains to be a servant in an urban home. Confused, afraid, and alone, Virginia accepts her captors as parents and loves their children. The prejudice of these mestizos, or middle-class natives, speeds the girl's assimilation, though it comes with a price: an inferiority complex that she confronts slowly as she secretly teaches herself to read. Confusion over whether or not her parents gave her away willingly serves the plot well; Virginia's dilemma doesn't fit neatly into formulas about courage and fighting for justice, although eventually both are within her reach. Her mistreatment by the woman of the house, an overweight, selfish dentist, is humiliating, constant, and disturbing; her husband plays her foil-understanding, even loving, until Virginia reaches adolescence-when he tries to molest her. This is a poignant coming-of-age novel that will expose readers to the exploitation of girls around the world whose families grow up in poverty.-Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY

    Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, May 9, 2011: "A moving, lyrical novel that will particularly resonate with teens caught between cultures."

  • Starred Review, School Library Journal, June 2011: "The authors' candid narrative richly depicts Virginia's passage from a childhood filled with demoralization to a young woman who sees her life through new eyes."

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    Random House Children's Books
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