Tag Archives: Cuba

Review: Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make Your Home Among Strangers
By Jennine Capò Crucet
Picador, 9781250094551, July 2016, 416pp.

The Short of It:

A young woman is pulled between her family at home, her studies at school, and the political turmoil over the forcible removal of a young Cuban boy and his return to his father back in Cuba.

The Rest of It:

Many of you may recall the story of Elián González. He was the center of an international custody battle back in 2000. Make Your Home Among Strangers includes a fictionalized account of his story in the form of Ariel Hernandez.

Lizet is the first in her family to attend college but when she announces her acceptance, she is met with disappointment. Her sister just found out she is pregnant and Lizet’s mother was just left by her husband and the house has been sold out from under her. No one in the family is happy about this turn of events but Lizet is curious about a life outside of what she knows and goes, leaving some bad feelings behind.

At school, Lizet struggles. The schooling she’s had prior to college did not prepare her for the rigorous work that is expected of her. Her ties to home and the guilt she has over not helping her sister during this time, cause her to visit home often which confuses her more.

In the midst of all this, Lizet’s mother has joined with others to protest the removal of Ariel Hernandez. He lost his mother leaving Cuba and they feel that since he made it to the US, that he should be allowed to stay but the possibility of his removal looms large as the rest of the story unfolds.

This was a quick, one-two punch of a read. Crucet’s writing is genuine and thoughtful. Lizet is a very believable character. Not perfect, but trying. My discussion group chose this book for next week’s discussion. I had to go back to read up on Elián González because I had forgotten a lot of the particulars. Do you remember his story?

Source: Purchased
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Review: Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana
By Carlos Eire
(Free Press, Paperback, 9780743246415, 2004, 390pp.)

The Short of It:

A young boy’s take on Cuba before and after Fidel Castro.

The Rest of It:

Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos’s youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959. Suddenly the music in the streets sounds like gunfire. Christmas is made illegal, political dissent leads to imprisonment, and too many of Carlos’s friends are leaving Cuba for a place as far away and unthinkable as the United States. Carlos will end up there, too, and fulfill his mother’s dreams by becoming a modern American man—even if his soul remains in the country he left behind. –Simon & Schuster

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Given the subject matter, I expected it to be more factual but Eire chose to focus on his idyllic childhood. His childhood is fantastical in nature as Carlos was a very imaginative child. His mother, referred to as Marie Antoinette and his father Louis XVI, are rather mysterious figures. They are well-off but the father is preoccupied with his material wealth, more so than his family’s well-being.  So when the family is torn apart, it seems that the burden of responsibility falls on Carlos himself.

Written years later, Eire’s book is full of charm and wit but it’s apparent while reading just how painful his story is to tell. In fact, he’s often said that he wanted this to be a work of fiction, not a memoir and I must tell you, it does read like fiction so for those of you who shy away from memoirs, this might be a good one for you to grab.

My book club read this and we discussed it a couple of weeks ago.  I think we were all in agreement that the writing was lovely, but many felt nothing for Carlos. He was wealthy and spoiled and this prevented many from being able to relate to his story but I don’t know, there is something horrifying about living in a dream world and then being thrown into reality at such a young age. It’s almost more tragic.

Overall, a good discussion book, lovely writing and you’ll learn a little about pre-war Cuba.

Waiting for Snow in Havana won the National Book Award in 2003.

Source: Borrowed
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