Author and poet Margarita Engle explains what fireflies symbolize to her.
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I chose the title The Firefly Letters because Fredrika and Cecilia together would rescue fireflies from children who had captured them. And they would set them free again even though they knew they might have to rescue those same few fireflies a few minutes later if children recaptured them. In The Surrender Tree fireflies play a role too because they were actually an image of light where, as a girl is trying to escape from the re-concentration camp, she’s using a cigar to imitate the light of a firefly. And the children in Cuba do capture fireflies still and I imagine they do any place where they exist, capture fireflies and use them as little lanterns. But I think that they’re kind of a natural metaphor for … for a light of other sorts. For, kind of, trying to illuminate our own lives.