Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...
Cheers!: Just another excuse for you to get your drink on. You're welcome! See More...

My Anacaona Don’t

The Royal Diaries series gets its Taíno girl power on with the story of Anacaona.

My Anacaona Don’t

BOOK REPORT for Anacaona: Golden Flower by Kathryn Lasky

Cover Story: Fig Leaf Modesty
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Oral Storytelling
Bonus Factor: Riddles
Anti-Bonus Factor: Christopher Columbus
Relationship Status: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Royal Diaries Drinking Game: ~Revised Edition!~

Take a sip when:
• There is talk of a betrothal
• The protagonist references the diary concept (i.e. apologizes for not writing often enough, has to find a hiding place for the diary, explains why she's writing in it to begin with, etc.)
• The protagonist wonders what it would be like to be a "normal girl"
• There’s a ball
• Trip to the marketplace
• Somebody is poisoned or strangled or in some other way Ye Olde Murdered
• You wish you were a princess

Take two sips when:
• The protagonist becomes officially betrothed
• The protagonist suspects someone of reading her diary
• It's the protagonist's birthday
• Obvious historical foreshadowing*
• You're really glad you're NOT a princess

Take a shot when:
• The protagonist gets hitched
• Another Royal Diarist is mentioned**

*Anacaona has prophetic dreams, so: tons
**Isabel is mentioned (though not by name) in the historical-context epilogue, similar to how Victoria is called out in Jahanara's epilogue.

Cover Story: Fig Leaf Modesty

Given the climate, Anacaona probably didn't wear this much clothing. But I like the choice to have her covered in feathers, since birds are a major motif in this book.

The Deal:

From birth, Anacaona has been groomed to take over as the next chief of Xaragua. Her uncle is the current chief, and when he dies, he will choose either Anacaona or her brother to be his successor. Another option: Anacaona could marry the handsome chief of a neighboring region, leaving Xaragua and renouncing her claim to its throne. All she wants is what's best for her people and her loved ones, who are beset by attacks from a nearby island, hurricanes, and successively bad omens. In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue everything goes to shit.

BFF Charm: Maybe

Don't get me wrong, Anacaona is awesome—badass, selfless, kind, the works. But one of the things the Royal Diaries series excels at is finding the Essential Teenage Girl in each of its legendary historical subjects, even those with vastly different worldviews. I didn't really feel that with Anacaona. We're supposed to believe she has a crush on Chief Caonabó, but instead of talking about how dreamy his eyes are, she talks about how beneficial their marriage will be for the prosperity of their respective regions. Congrats on your selflessness, girl, but now I'm going to feel awkward telling you about my far-less-politically-motivated crushes. Also, I think Anacaona is the only Royal Diarist to [spoiler] become a mother midway through the book. This is just like when I read Breaking Dawn at age 15 or when my RL friend had a baby when I was 19: I'm happy for you, but I can't really relate. (Which I imagine is even more true for the 12-year-olds this book is actually aimed at.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

As mentioned above, sadly, this book does not really bring the swoon. Even though people are having babies left, right, and center, there is somehow No Kissing (and obviously No Sex). On the bright side, Anacaona and Caonabó are given a couple name, a la Brangelina! No joke, their constituents call them Anacaonabó. It's fantastic.

Talky Talk: Oral Storytelling

Edwidge Danticat faced a problem when she decided to make the story of Anacaona into a Royal Diaries book: the Taíno culture to which Anacaona belonged didn't have a written language. The book begins with an author's note explaining how Anacaona might have reflected on her life through oral storytelling and ballads, and how the Taíno people created pictographic representations of their environment. Frankly, most of the Royal Diaries books require suspension of disbelief to a certain extent (just because Ancient Egyptians could write doesn't mean they kept diaries), so the "diary" format in Anacaona mostly works except where it draws too much attention to itself. The only major issue I had was with the dates—usually if a princess uses a non-Gregorian calendar, we get the "actual" date in brackets for each entry. This book didn't have that, which made it confusing to keep track of how much time was passing between entries.

Bonus Factor: Riddles

Anacaona is an accomplished balladeer, carver, and riddler. Her riddles aren't quite what we'd expect based on the sphinx/Gollum/Batman villain model. They're more like questions she poses to herself to try to understand the world:

What is the difference between a war and a hurricane?

Response: A war we may be able to win with our own might, but with a hurricane, all power is out of our hands.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Christopher Columbus

CC doesn't appear in this book himself (at least not by name), but Spanish-speaking gold-seeking land-stealing sailors sure do! They are The Worst, but I had to give major snaps to Anacaona reflecting on the violent encounter in the last few pages:

I told such a lengthy tale because I did not want our battle with the pale men to become the only story our people would ever recite from now on. For we had other stories, too, happy as well as sad ones. Our encounter with the pale men was only a small piece of that story. Surely an important piece, but not the most important.

Casting Call:

Tragically, the Taínos were completely wiped out in the Columbian Exchange, mostly within a single century. There seems to be some debate going on today about whether Taíno genetic heritage lives on in some modern members of the Haitiian and Dominican Republic populations, along with the more obvious African and Creole ancestry. Given the significance and sensitive nature of this debate, I don't really feel qualified to make a call regarding casting (a casting call, if you will).

Relationship Status: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Aretha said it best: I respect the hell out of you, book. (Okay, Aretha didn't actually say that.) We may not have a ton in common, but you taught me all sorts of new stuff and made me feel things, which is what really counts. I'm glad we met.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book with my allowance. Anacaona: Golden Flower has been available for years, y'all. So get on that.

Maria Greer's photo About the Author: Maria is originally from Montana but goes to school in the Bay Area, where she totally fails to take advantage of the tech industry. Instead, she is majoring in history and creative writing, with which she plans to do...something. Currently her hope is that someone will come along and offer to pay her to read YA novels and eat cupcakes. Until that day, Maria spends most of her time studying and petitioning the university to let her keep a cat in her dorm.