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Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

Cuba 15 (2003)

by Nancy Osa

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“What can be funny about having to stand up in front of everyone you know, in a ruffly-dress the color of Pepto-Bismol, and proclaim your womanhood? Nothing… Nothing funny at all. At least that’s what I thought in September.” In Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa, Violet Paz is a 15 year old girl who is struggling to find herself, all while trying to plan her Quinceñero, the Cuban celebration to “womanhood” a girl experiences at 15 years of age. Her father is of Cuban culture and her mother is Polish, but Violet is clearly less than thrilled to explore her culture or celebrate the traditional party. However, when beginning the planning for her Quinceñero, Violet decides to educate herself about her Cuban culture and learn more about her family. She becomes interested and grows to love her family and heritage.

Throughout the course of the story, Violet is dealing with two major conflicts- figuring out who she truly is and which culture she should identify with. Since Violet is of teenage years, she grows and learns throughout the story about not only her culture and family, but herself as well. She comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t have to pick one identity to go by, and is proud of her multi-cultural family roots. This realistic fiction book has multiple themes, including Cuban Americans, Quinceñeros, Identity, and Multi-cultural immigrant families.

The theme of this book connects to the theme of the American Dream because Violet is dealing with internal and external conflicts (such as who she truly is, and how she should go about learning her cultures) the same way someone hoping to reach the American Dream does. Violet learns of identity and matures throughout the story the same way one trying to the reach the American Dream would. Both deal with struggles to reach their goals and learn important life lessons along the way, such as Violet accepting and embracing the fact that she comes from a multi-cultural family.

The story itself is very humorous from the moment you open the book, which made it extremely enjoyable. It follows the exciting events and happenings of a teenager from a biracial family, but is still an easy read that is very entertaining. The entire story is very believable, from the rate that Violet is maturing to the realistic accompanying characters, such as her family, best friends, and new boyfriend. The only slight problem
with this book is that it is a little slow at times, but other than that it was a very amusing read. Even readers who aren’t in a multi-cultural family will enjoy this book. Read this story to experience a life-changing adventure with Violet as she “takes a deep breath, opens her mouth, and lets the truth come out.” -B.M.
1 vote StonehamHS_Library | May 3, 2011 |
Author last name, first name. Title. Year. Publisher: City.
Osa, Nancy. Cuba 15. 2003. Delacorte Press: New York.

Genre: Multicultural Fiction

Themes : Cuban culture and customs, family relationships, high school, coming of age

Age / Grade Appropriateness : Recommended for grades 6-10. I think this is accurate but older students may enjoy it as well.

ALA Notable Children's Book (2004)

South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee (2006-2007)

Pura Belpré Honor (Narrative, 2004)

ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2004)

Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel (Winner, 2001)

Censorship Issues: There are no evident censorship issues in this story.

Plot Summary: Violet Paz is a Cuban/Polish American teen, growing up in Chicago. For her fifteenth birthday, her Cuban grandmother insists on throwing her a quincenero – a traditional Cuban coming-of-age party. At first opposed to the idea, Violet pays little attention to the planning. As the quincenero nears, she becomes more interested in her Cuban heritage which her father refuses to discuss. Her father’s family fled from Cuba when he was a child and he has turned his back on his Cuban heritage. She attends a Cuban peace rally which causes a huge rift between her and her father. The prominent game played by the family is Dominoes. They play for dimes and extended family also stops by to play. Meanwhile at high school, she is recruited for the speech team. Her category is Original Comedy and she creates a very funny speech about her family. The story follows her through the speech competition season where she wins some and loses some. She also meets new people and cements relationships with her two best friends who agree to be a part of her quincenero. As her party nears, she becomes very excited and she finds a way to make the quincenero her very own. By the end of the story she and her father have reconciled and it is through Violet’s curiosity and encouragement that her father starts to show interest in his Cuban culture.

Your critique: This book is written from a teen’s point of view. Even though Violet’s family have significant roles in the story, the main learning and growing up are done by Violet. I like the fact that Violet wins and looses during the speech competitions and that this is not considered a defeat or victory, just a fact. It really shows how she grows throughout this time. The story is fast paced with lots of things happening simultaneously. It was a quick read. The story did explore some of the Cuban cultural traditions which were really interesting. It also dealt with issues many teens deal with including family conflict, new experiences, growing up, and finding one’s own identity. The story ended on an optimistic note with all issues resolved positively.

Curriculum Uses: This would be a good multicultural book to add to a school or public library collection. It broadens the readers understanding of a key Cuban custom that many are unaware of. It appeals to girls mostly and could be used within a comparison of coming of age celebrations throughout different cultures.
  Andreaz | Nov 6, 2010 |
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! I'm actually surprised by how i fast i read this! I think it has to do with the fact that i really liked it :)

Violet Paz is a sophomore in High School who has just turned 15 years old. Her family is half Polish and half Cuban, yet she feels in between because she doesn't know much about her family roots, especially her Cuban side. When her Abuela (Grandmother) brings up the subject of a Quinceañero, Violet immediately objects to this nonsense. Who in there right mind would want to wear a puffy dress the color of petmol bistmol? Let alone, get in front of a crowd of people and proclaim your womanhood?

These are the types of questions and thoughts that linger through Violet's head as her family insist that she have a Quince Fiesta. In case you don't know, a Quinceañero is a traditional coming of age party for Latina girls when they turn 15. A bit similar to a Sweet 16 party. While reading this book i remembered when i turned 15, it really was a special moment for me! I didn't have a Quince fiesta though- i didn't want one. Nancy Osa did such a great job capturing that feeling of when a girl is in that part of her life where she comes to terms with becoming a Señorita (Young Lady)

There is also a Sub-Plot in this story that ties in PERFECTLY with the plot of Violet, planning her Quince with her family and two best friends. In school, Violet is invited to join the Speech Team with her two best friends by one of their teacher's. Violet is placed in the Original Comedy section of the team and to her surprise, she finds inspiration for her original piece from her family.Through this assignment, Violet finds herself seeking answers about her Cuban heritage. She even reaches the point where boundaries end up being crossed which results in a heartfelt climax with her family.

I believe that a lot of girls would find this book to be an interesting read! It's funny, life like, and touching! Girls who are planning on having a Quince Fiesta will definitely enjoy this story! Grab this book Señoritas! :) ( )
  Euphoria13 | Jul 26, 2010 |
personal response: This most enjoyable part of this story is Violet's struggle to maintain the sense of individuality and American identity that she has established while trying to allow herself to be open to contemplation of ideas about her heritage. I think many teenagers can identify with this same struggle as they begin to come into their own and are faced with trying to see the world for themselves versus following in their family's views in order to please them.
Grades 8-10

curricular connections: ( )
  cassiusclay | Jul 7, 2010 |
Reviewed by Mark Frye, author and reviewer for TeensReadToo.com

Violet Paz gives little thought to her ethnicity. She's half-Cuban and half-Polish, but all American. She takes her father's roots for granted, even if her crazy relatives are always visiting for mega-Domino tournaments and zany cookouts. But when her grandmother and parents insist that she participate in her "quince," she is forced into a reluctant and embarrassed embrace with an "old world" tradition.

This debut novel masterfully and subtly details the modernization of the quinceanero, a coming-of-age party for a Latina's fifteenth birthday, through the eyes of a clever and humorous teen living near Chicago. The author, Nancy Osa, accurately captures the resentment of parental influence some teens experience in their quest for their own identity. As Violet struggles with being forced to participate in her own quince, she seeks advice from other adult figures who help her balance parental expectations with her own need for independence. Osa pulls off this high-wire act masterfully, not going "over the top" in teen rebellion fashion, nor making Violet an unbelievably acquiescent parent-pleaser.

Osa weaves the subplot into the novel quite well, also. It makes Violet's self-discovery a double success story: not only does she make her quince relevant to her modern, American life, but she uses her zany family's exploits as fodder for her speech team event.

CUBA 15 has received considerable attention and been nominated for numerous awards. This is a likeable story from a "new" author I hope we hear from again! Five stars. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
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Para mi familia, aqui y alla
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What can be funny about having to stand up in front of everyone you know, in a ruffly dress the color of Pepto-Bismol and proclaim your womanhood?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385732333, Paperback)

Violet Paz has just turned 15, a pivotal birthday in the eyes of her Cuban grandmother. Fifteen is the age when a girl enters womanhood, traditionally celebrating the occasion with a quinceañero. But while Violet is half Cuban, she’s also half Polish, and more importantly, she feels 100% American. Except for her zany family’s passion for playing dominoes, smoking cigars, and dancing to Latin music, Violet knows little about Cuban culture, nada about quinces, and only tidbits about the history of Cuba. So when Violet begrudgingly accepts Abuela’s plans for a quinceañero–and as she begins to ask questions about her Cuban roots–cultures and feelings collide. The mere mention of Cuba and Fidel Castro elicits her grandparents’sadness and her father’s anger. Only Violet’s aunt Luz remains open-minded. With so many divergent views, it’s not easy to know what to believe. All Violet knows is that she’s got to form her own opinions, even if this jolts her family into unwanted confrontations. After all, a quince girl is supposed to embrace responsibility–and to Violet that includes understanding the Cuban heritage that binds her to a homeland she’s never seen. This is Nancy Osa’s first novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:18 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Violet Paz, a Chicago high school student, reluctantly prepares for her upcoming "quince," a Spanish nickname for the celebration of an Hispanic girl's fifteenth birthday.

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