Virginia lives in poverty in Ecuador, in an Andean village with her family. At the age of 7 Virginia’s parents give her to a mestizo family to be their servant. Virginia is told that she will be able to come home and visit her family, that she will be paid for her work and that she will be able to go to school. She never gets to visit, never sees any money and never goes to school.
Even though her mother cries nightly for her, Virginia thinks her parents do not love her and do not want her to come home. She spends the next 5 years with Nio Carlitos and his wife the Doctorita who are both teachers at the local colegio. While there she must put up with the taunts and abuse from her employers. She has to take care of the boys and do all of the cooking and cleaning.
Amidst this life Virginia fights her own battles of fear and insecurity but her spirit stays strong and she fights back by secretly learning to read, write and make friends. She becomes accustomed to the comforts and luxuries of the metizos and has a hard time wanting to be with her family when she goes to live with them for a few years. She feels humiliated by them and wants to have much more than they can offer.
She creatively finds ways to earn money and saves it to pay her own way to the colegio in Otavalo. She starts to blend in as a mestizo even though she is really a poor indigena. She slowly breaks the ties she had to her old life and hides that she is a poor indigenous and wants people to believe that she is mestizo. Then one day she enters a pageant to crown the Queen of Water, Queen of Corn and Queen of Sky. The pageant opens up ways that allow her to blend and live all of the cultures she loves and as she goes home to her parents one more time, she sees things in a whole different light.
The Queen of Water is a fictionalized account of Maria Virginia Farinango who grew up in Ecuador. It was written by Laura Resau in collaboration with Maria Virginia Farinango over a 6 year period. It includes a glossary and pronunciation guide to use while reading the book.
352 pages 978-0375859632 Ages 13 and up (Grades 8 and up)
Recommended by Joleen Waltman, Librarian, Idaho, USA