Join us in celebrating WINGS IN THE WILD book birthday!
We sat down with award-winning Musa Margarita Engle to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about Wings in the Wild, this inspiring romantic contemporary novel-in-verse that tells the story of two teens fighting for climate action and human rights:
Winged beings are meant to be free. And so are artists, but the Cuban government has criminalized any art that doesn’t meet their approval. Soleida and her parents protest this injustice with their secret sculpture garden of chained birds. Then a hurricane exposes the illegal art, and her parents are arrested.
Soleida escapes to Central America alone, joining the thousands of Cuban refugees stranded in Costa Rica while seeking asylum elsewhere. There she meets Dariel, a Cuban American boy whose enigmatic music enchants birds and animals—and Soleida.
Together they work to protect the environment and bring attention to the imprisoned artists in Cuba. Soon they discover that love isn’t about falling—it’s about soaring together to new heights. But wings can be fragile, and Soleida and Dariel come from different worlds. They are fighting for a better future—and the chance to be together.
What 3 words describe your book?
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
The love story and environmental aspects came from my own emotions and my scientific background as a botanist. The artistic freedom aspect emerged from repressive events in Cuba as well as increasing censorship in the U.S.
What message are you hoping readers will take away from this story?
I hope readers remember those three inspirations listed above: love, rewilding, freedom. In other words, no matter how difficult life is, people still fall in love, and as a result they find hope. No matter how devastated nature is, rewilding (restoration of a natural habitat) is still possible). No matter how severely an authoritarian government attempts to crush freedom of expression, we can still think for ourselves, and protect our own creativity.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a writer?
My creative writing professor, Tomás Rivera, taught me to write from the heart without worrying about whether I will ever be published. Now, with more than 30 books already published, I still try to follow those instructions. I write because I have something to say. Anything beyond that comes later.
What comes next for you as an author?
In August I have a picture book called Water Day pending from Atheneum/Simon and Schuster, with beautiful cut paper illustrations by Olivia Sua. Water Day has an environmental theme about water deliveries to rooftop tanks in a Cuban town where running water is no longer available due to pollution, climate change, and deterioration of old pipes.
In 2024 my next young adult verse novel, Wild Dreamers, will be published by Atheneum/Simon and Schuster. Like Wings in the Wild, it is a love story and an environmental one. Set in California, Wild Dreamers is about high school kids who help establish wildlife crossings to protect mountain lions from traffic.
Her most recent books are Rima’s Rebellion, Singing With Elephants, and Destiny Finds Her Way. Her next young adult verse novel isWings in the Wild, and her next picture book is Water Day.
Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives on the island. She studied agronomy and botany along with creative writing, and now lives in central California with her husband.
Facebook: Margarita Engle
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