New Book Review – Caminata: A Journey

New Book Review – Caminata: A Journey

Caminata is the story of an American woman’s time in Honduras volunteering at La Casa de los Ninos in 1983, living in a home for young women abandoned by their families and learning to make their way in the world. During her year there, Beth must learn quickly how to navigate the culture, manage the expectations of the nuns who run the home as well as her own, and most importantly, to gain the girls’ trust in order to be of any support to them.

Not really a travel book per se, this book based loosely on the author’s time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras. Currently Lori DiPrete Brown coordinates international education at University of Wisconsin Madison and also directs 4W, a program which focuses on health and wellness of women in Wisconsin and the world.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently began partnering with Lori and 4W in my own work as the Gender and Women’s Studies Librarian for the UW System. In my limited interactions with her thus far, I find Lori to be a real spitfire, a woman who has big ideas and who finds ways to bring those ideas to life. I like that, so I was very interested in reading her book.

As someone who has never been to Honduras, I found the descriptions in Caminata brought to life the landscape and people of the country, which provided a vivid backdrop for the book. Beth’s story is interwoven with those of each of the girls she comes to know, each of whom who has a chapter dedicated to them, which is an effective way to draw attention to the individuality and significance of each of their lives.

In becoming adults and transitioning to lives outside of the home, each young woman must get identification papers. Beth commits to assisting them and diPrete Brown describes the journey of each with heartfelt and honest portrayals.
While the book raises questions about the role of white, Western folks in the “saving” of those in developing countries, it isn’t a main point of the book. I felt Beth’s genuine care for the young women and her questioning of how far she should go to support and guide them.

Overall, this is a quick and engaging read that kept me interested and invested in the characters. It also left me with some questions about the role of Western volunteer programs in developing countries, but not in a negative way; I always have these questions on my mind!
I wonder how much has changed in the time since the story took place, especially in regards to these types of homes for orphaned girls and the status and opportunities for them in Honduras as they grow older. I would recommend this book to anyone who readers who have been in the Peace Corps, who have an appreciation for Central America, or anyone who digs travel books or memoirs, especially those with female main characters.

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