What is the summary for Before We Were Free?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before We Were Free is a beautiful young adult novel by Julia Alvarez. Basically, it is a young girl's story from the dictatorship in the Dominican Republic to freedom. 

Anita de la Torre grew up having very little knowledge about the dangerous dictatorship ruling her country of the Dominican Republic. Now she is a pre teen. However, it turns out that every single person in her family and elsewhere has to be careful of what they do and what they say at all times. If not, then they are in danger of being taken prisoner by the secret police. It isn't long before a caravan of black cars drive up their driveway and take their family into custody. Already, her Tio Tony, who is her uncle, has already disappeared without any sign or word. Many of her other family members have already escaped and gone to America.

When the black cars arrive, Anita is very confused. She spends her time listening to conversations, trying to figure out what is going on. Through talking with her sister, Julia, she discovers that her dad and a few other family members are involved in an anti- government plot to kill the leader of the evil Trujillo dictatorship, El Jefe. Why did Anita's father participate in this? The answer is a famous quote from the book:

Life without freedom is no life at all.

In a story is similar to Anne Frank, Anita and her mother go underground. They end up living in a good friend's basement. Also similar to Anne Frank, she keeps a diary of her hiding every single day.

As Anita starts to learn the truth about the dictatorship she lives under, she actually loses her voice and forgets different Spanish words for things. The suspense mounts as Anita and her mother remain in captivity. Luckily, the ending is hopeful with Anita and her mother being able to fly to freedom in America and meeting her family members who have been long lost.

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