Before We Were Free

by Julia Alvarez

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What is the plot of Before We Were Free?

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Julia Alvarez’s novel Before We Were Free is about the effects of political repression on one family, especially the members who go into hiding and then into exile. The protagonist is Anita, a Dominican girl who turns twelve during the novel’s action. Her family is divided when the nation's dictatorial ruler has her father and uncle arrested for their role in an assassination plot. Once the men have become political prisoners, the lives of both Anita and her mother are in danger. Together the, spend several months hiding in the home of a family friend who shelters them.

Abruptly taken out of school and her home, Anita must adjust to the strict confines of the basement hideaway. Her mode of expression largely shifts from oral to written. While she finds herself unable to speak, she keeps a journal. Anita later must cope with learning that her father has died. Once she and her mother escape and move to New York, joining other family members who are already there, she undergoes a series of adjustments to her new life in the US.

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