Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 7, 2015

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings a Memoir by Margarita Engle

Flight and sky are images that recur through this verse memoir of the first fourteen years of the author’s life. We see Margarita Engle find a home in Cuba, where her mother was born, and California and Oregon, where she lives most of the time with Mami, her sister, and Dad. Highlights from early years were visits to Cuba, where Margarita’s soul was shaped by the dances and stories of her mother’s family, and the songbirds, bright parrots, orchids, mimosas, and coconut palms that she’s earlier evoked in verse novels including The Surrender Tree and Tropical Secrets. Memories such as of a river that “shimmers like a humming bird/all the dangerous crocodiles/ and gentle manatees/already hidden beneath/quiet water” sustain her as travel restrictions between Cuba and the United States are set. As she becomes a young teenager, the sense of isolation she already felt as a person who loved books and animals more than her peers did deepened due to her questioning and apprehension as she heard newscasts about the Cold War.


Her family is regarded by neighbors with some cruel suspicion, but Margarita finds her own courage as her mother finds hers. They both struggle with homesickness, finding their places between two lands and languages. Neither can forget the island where women work by windows where moths and birds fly in and out, enjoying the fresh air, while also fearing aires, a word that can be “a whoosh/ of refreshing sky-breath, or it can mean/dangerous/spirits.” Fear and love shape the book, along with thoughts on flights of mythical horses and real butterflies. The last poem of Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings is titled “Hope,” and a timeline shows public events between Cuba and the United States. One girl’s story shows a joy shared by many as, after so many years, lands that were once friendly can be so again.

Here’s a great interview with Margarita done by verse novelist Holly Thompson at Poetry for Children. Margarita Engle: “I studied botany, and became an agronomist. I remembered family, and became a poet.”

For more Poetry Friday reading please visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.


  1. Once again, thank you. Thank you for bringing Enchanted Air to our notice, as well as the Poetry for Children site.

    • Thanks, Sarah. It’s a lovely verse memoir, and the Poetry for Children site is a treasure trove: Sylvia Vardell does SO much for poetry for the young.

  2. Can’t wait to read this one!!

    • I think you’ll be moved and delighted.

  3. Oh, this sounds wonderful, Jeannine! Thanks for sharing it today.

    • Thanks, Tara. It just came out this week!

  4. I expect yours is one of the first of many wonderful reviews to come! Thanks for sharing, Jeannine.

    • Thanks for reading, Michelle. I expect you’re right. This memoir is getting a lot of love.

  5. Sounds like a beautiful verse novel. I have pinned this review to my verse novel board on Pinterest, and will be seeking out the book.

    • Great! Thanks for reading, pinning, and soon seeking!

  6. Can’t wait to read this!

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