Casa Dividida

Book Title Casa Dividida (House Divided)
Author(s) Chris Mercer
Illustrator(s) Julia Kolyanda
Other Contributors Juan Carlos Pinilla Melo
Published by TPRS Books (view our statement on TPRS Books)
Genre History and Biographies
Publication date 2017
#Ownvoices No

From the author/publisher’s website
Level 3

Total Word Count Unknown

Illustrations                    YES 
Glossary                          YES  
Guiding Questions       NO  
Context                            YES  
Other                                N/A

Races, Ethnicities, and Nationalities
Cuban, Latinx, Latino/a, white 

Languages spoken
Spanish, English

Sex and Genders
Male – protagonist, Female – protagonist

Child, Teenager, Adult, Senior

Social classes
Poor, Working Class, Middle Class, Upper Class
Sexual Orientation



Family Structures
Heteroparental, Extended Family

Body Type
From the author/publisher’s website 

José, the son of one of Cuba’s wealthiest tobacco tycoons; and Luisa, a peasant sugar cane cutter, see their country turned upside-down by the Cuban Revolution. They are then faced with a choice. Stay and defend the Revolution? Or flee and fight for its end?

Based on true events, this novel chips away at political propaganda with a gripping tale of battlefield heroism, international espionage, economic collapse, and human compassion. You will be left wondering who the true rebels are and what it will take to reunite a house divided.  
To what extent do the illustrations present positive and thoughtful representations of identities?

The illustrations of Casa Dividida are black and white pencil sketches. They capture the life and culture of Cuba pre and post the Revolution. There is a variety of male and female characters of all ages and social classes.

We understand identities are complex and no single story represents the spectrum of identity-based experiences. Also, a text may address a stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization without relying on it.

Does any stereotype, misrepresentation, or generalization affect any positive and thoughtful representations of identities in the text?


This section is for teachers who are working towards sourcing more texts within the four domains of anti-bias education. We are excited about reading all books and we understand that not all books are written for this specific purpose. 

Does this text work toward goals within any of the four domains of anti-bias education as defined by Teaching Tolerance
Identity: Promote a healthy self-concept and exploration of identity
Justice: Raise awareness of prejudice and injustice
Action: Motivate students to act by highlighting individual and collective struggles against injustice
Casa Dividida by Chris Mercer highlights the history of Cuba as a nation by telling the stories of José, a wealthy Cuban man, and Luisa, a Cuban woman who starts off as a peasant and becomes a pediatrician. 

The book begins with a brief introduction of the indigenous Cuba before it was colonized and then its tragic history with slavery. The first chapter contrasts the life and family of José and Luisa. José lives a life of luxury and continues with this lifestyle for the remainder of the book. He only encounters a brief life change when he immigrates to the United States for college and is unaware that there are no maids or private cooks on school campus. However, by the end of the story, the author points out that he travels to visit his family and goes to expensive restaurants. Meanwhile, Luisa works hard to become a pediatrician in Cuba, travels to Nicaragua to help with the revolution, and then travels back to Cuba where a hotel waiter makes more money than a doctor. Even though Luisa now has a great professional career, she is still economically bound by her country’s international disputes. The author does attempt a synthesis of the complex Cuban history in language appropriate for level 3 and above. Teachers who wish to raise their students’ awareness about the complex Cuban history, with its struggles and its triumphs, may find this story appropriate. However, the book lacks the embodiment of the pain and suffering that the Cuban people has endured. By missing this, students may be led to believe that Cubans are bystanders of their circumstances.

The illustrations showcase a variety of male and female characters from all ages and social classes. It is important to note that though an Afro-Latina appears on the cover, race is never mentioned in the book. This color evasiveness is a missed opportunity to educate the readers about the complex caste system of Cuba. 

3.18.2022 We previously identified the examples below as language imperialism.  By nature, authors of comprehensible readers create texts that maximize comprehension of the language for language learners whose first language is English, and this can result in unintended language imperialism when the author’s native language is not Spanish.  We acknowledge that this is a complex concept and that there are many forms of expression among speakers of any language – what appears to function as language imperialism to one individual may not to another for various reasons.  We are looking forward to growing our understanding of this concept through future research and dialogue.

There is some language imperialism. For example the phrase “el sol amaneció” (p.14) is a direct English translation from “the sun rose”, which is not how it is said in Spanish. 

View our statement on TPRS Books

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