Review: Silver People – Margarita Engle

Silver PeopleOne hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.
From the young “silver people” whose back-breaking labor built the Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could tell it.

Silver People is a verse novel about the building of the Panama Canal. I was intrigued in this book, as I thought it was an interesting writing style choice and I’m also up for verse novels.

This book is #ownvoices for Cuban representation.

I was very surprised and excited at the beginning, when I realised that the perspectives were not all human perspectives, but some of them were nature perspectives. For example, the howler monkeys, the glass frogs, a monkey-eating eagle, and the trees all have perspective. However, I was disappointed by these nature perspectives. I felt that they were too one-dimensional and painted nature as though it was only capable of one thought.

The human perspectives were fascinating. We are introduced to several different people, from different classes, and of different ethnicities. As far as I remember, there is only one perspective told by a woman. The different perspectives showed how people from the various communities impacted by the building of the Panama Canal felt about it. The verses show how white people exoticise Panama, and describes how the different people living in Panama feel about this. It also portrays feminism, and touches on intersectionality and white feminism.

I did not know much about the building of the Panama Canal. For example, I had no idea that the people were paid differently according to their ethnicity. I also did not know anything about the working conditions of those workers. It was also very interesting to read about how the land changed due to the canal.

I enjoyed the human perspectives of Silver People, but I did not enjoy the nature perspectives at all. I’m not a huge fan of the book.

2 stars

Have you read Silver People? What did you think of the different perspectives?


2 thoughts on “Review: Silver People – Margarita Engle

  1. Oh, I was so excited – historical fiction! Set in Panama! Then I saw “verse novel” and then saw your opinion. I’ll probably skip this one. Any authors you particularly like who write books set south of the US? Next year I hope to try to read more Latina fiction. Engle is one people keep recommending to me but I’m generally not a fan of verse novels.


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