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Dreaming In Cuban (1993)

Dreaming in Cuban (1993)
Rating
3.67 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
0345381432 (ISBN13: 9780345381439)
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English
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ballantine books
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Dreaming In Cuban (1993)
Dreaming In Cuban (1993)

About book: Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina GarciaThis is a novel that tells the story of three generations of Cubans. Celia Almeida the matriarch who fell in love with a married Spanish lawyer (Gustavo Sierra de Armas) but had to settle for Jorge del Pino. Because of this, Jorge punishes her by leaving her alone while on business as a traveling salesman and distancing her children from her. Celia and Jorge have three children: Lourdes marries a rich man from the Cuba's high society, Rufino Puente and chooses to leave Cuba for Brooklyn where she opens the Yankee Doodle Bakery in Brooklyn, and thrives on American life, quickly embracing cold weather, capitalism, and prejudice. Her husband feels impotent because he was a rancher and liked to work outdoor Lourdes keeps a strong tie to her father - who died in Brooklyn from stomach cancer - and is frequented by his spirit. Jorge del Pino spirit assesses Lourdes on all the important decisions she makes. Felicia marries the good for nothing Hugo Villaverde, who gives her syphilis with her second pregnancy and is kicked out by Jorge del Pino from the family. Felicia decides to stay in Cuba and has an affinity for santeria. She killed the last of her three husbands and tried to burn the first one alive. She also burnt Graciela Moreira's hair because she though she was responsible for the death of her second husband: Ernesto Brito.Javier escapes to Czechoslovakia where he becomes a professor at the Prague University. He marries Irina Novotny with whom he fathers a girl, Irinita. Irina leaves him for another intellectual so he returns to Cuba in defeat.The third generation of protagonists are made up of their children:Pilar Puente - the most important of these, is Lourdes and Rufino's daughter. She's a rebel with a cause. While her mother is a right wing Cuban exile who hates anything that has to do with Castro, Pilar has a strong connection with her grandmother Celia. Celia speaks to her for most of her early life. Pilar is an artist, a free spirit and longs to go back and stay in Cuba. She remembers being torn away from her grandmother's arms when Lourdes decided to leave for the US. Feels she belongs there.Luz and Milagro Villaverde - Felicia's daughters - hate her mother. They side with their father and try in vain to rescue their brother Ivanito from her crazy mother who ends up trying to burn him alive.Ivanito is very close to her mother and even though he excels in Russian, he's trying to learn English. He goes to his grandmother's house in Santa Teresa del Mar to try to listen to American radio. He's painted like a mama's boy and the writer is ambiguous about his relationship with his Russian teacher, Sergei Mikoyan, who has to leave Cuba because of improprieties with his students. The techniques used by the writer are interesting. The book takes place from 1972 to 1980. The book is narrated from the third person point of view, but it switches to the first person point of view every time Pilar does the storytelling. Perhaps the writer was identifying with Pilar. I thought it was nice until Ivanito and Herminia Delgado - Felicia's closest friend - also narrate from the first person point of view. I did not understand this. The writer uses letters sent from Celia to Gustavo to fill in the gaps of the story. The most poetic words are in the letters. "I was born to live in an island" writes Celia to Gustavo. "I'm grateful that the tides rearrange the borders. At least I have the illusion of change, of possibility. To be locked within boundaries plotted by priests and politicians would be the only thing more intolerable." Celia complains of a loneliness "borne of the inability to share her joy." The book is an interesting study of the Cuban dynamics touching on the topics of Santeria, racism, and the Cuban revolution. The writer takes steps to present all the different points of views: Cubans in Cuba who love the revolution, Cubans in Cuba who need to be "reprogrammed" because they oppose the revolution. The poverty and decay in Cuba. It also shows the Cubans in the US - The ones who missed Cuba, like Pilar, and the ones who are radical against Castro. Lourdes has meetings on her bakery and her friends boast that they called a bomb threat to the Lincoln Center when Alicia Alonso came to perform with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, because Ms. Alonso was a Castro supporter. I think the santeria and spiritualism is used as a way to stay in touch. Generations communicate in the afterlife - Jorge and Lourdes - and through space - Celia and Pilar. Ms. Garcia states that santeria is an unacknowledged and under appreciated aspect of what it means to be Cuban. The racism is showcased in the relationship between Herminia and Felicia. Herminia, being of African descent, is aware that Felicia is the only person who doesn't see color. She also speaks of the Little War of 1912 when many of her relatives were killed for being black. The book's ending is ambiguous. I think it's because Ms. Garcia is still trying to figure out where she belongs. The book also lacks sufficient freshness of insight to be consistently compelling. It left me with a sense that the questions asked were never answered.

I have to say that I hardly remember Dreaming in Cuban's characters and story. In fact, a few weeks after finishing it, everything had left my memory except for certain strong impressions--its atmosphere, images, & emotions--all of which eventually blurred together and remain with me a year later. Whether this is a good sign or something unintended by the author, I haven't really figured out. Either way, I am still totally amazed by its dreamlike effects.García carries us on her lush, poetic prose into the lives of a split family, mainly of its women: Pilar and her mother Lourdes who live in the US and Pilar's grandmother who is back in Cuba. Of course, there is some interesting generational conflict and peeks into their past (and Cuba's)--deep traumas presented with a dose of magical realism.The narrative is fragmented but smooth, like a dream, pulling you along with changing POV's and ethereal and/or striking anecdotes. So the plot (if it exists) really does not seem to have any kind of direction, nor a real ending. But in the end, I found myself pleased with the reading experience. I enjoyed each moment of the writing. It was like slowly eating a rich tropical fruit that happened to be my only source of sustenance, only sometimes crying at the same time--you know, getting stabbed by some pungent sadness. Whenever I sat down to read I felt the air around me go humid and I breathed it in from the pages. Fo' reals.When they returned, it [the del Pinos's house:] was like an undersea cave, blanched by the ocean. Dried algae stuck to the walls and the sand formed a strange topography on the floors.andThe air was different from Cuba's. It had a cold, smoked smell that chilled my lungs. The skies looked newly washed, streaked with light. And the trees were different, too. They looked on fire. I'd run through great heaps of leaves just to hear them rustle like the palm trees during hurricanes in Cuba.I will stop spoiling everything now, but yeah! Gorgeous.Something cool to note is García's mother tongue's influence on her natural style. Take this sentence, por ejemplo:She imagines her granddaughter pale, gliding through paleness, malnourished and cold without the food of scarlets and greens.Another reviewer mentioned that Cristina García initially tried writing this novel in Spanish. This really fascinates me. García is definitely in her element in English. Interesting too in Dreaming in Cuban is the relationship between imagination & memory and history and how it helps people to cope. García gives it some lovely & moving though incomplete exploration in the stories of these women. [In regards to this theme, for something that is whole & thought-provoking & heartbreaking, do also read Nicole Krauss's The History of Love which I kind of think is a total masterpiece.:]Dreaming in Cuban was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992.This is why:I think of Flaubert, who spent most of his adult life in the same French village, or Emily Dickinson, whose poems echoed the cadence of local church bells. I wonder if the farthest distance I have to travel isn't inside my own head. But then I think of Gauguin or DH Lawrence or Hemingway...and I become convinced that you have to live in the world to say anything meaningful about it.Word, Pilar.I've added this book to my favorites list and hope to read García's Handbook of Luck or Monkey Hunting in the near future.
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Reviews
Iamthird
Poems Dreaming in Spanish I love Havana , it's noise and decay and painted last was Belong - not instead of here, but more than here. Keep my grandmothers company in her porch p 255 The Cuban propensity for exaggeration contributes to this. If every exit claimed to have a deed to his ranch on the island actually produced it , the joke goes, Cuba would be the size of Brazil. p193 That we can see and understand everything just as well alive as dead, only when we're alive we don't have the time, or the peace of mind, or the inclination to see and understand what we could. We're too busy rushing to our graves.p 180 someone's playing a guitar on the steps of Low Library, a folk song, but nobody's listening. People here react negatively to any overt displays of soulfulness p 144 Before anyone can react, Mom swings her new handbag and clubs the guy cold inches from the painting. Then, as if in slow motion, she tumbles forward, a thrashing avalanche of patriotism and motherhood, crushing three spectators and a table of apple tartlets. And I, I love my mother very much at that moment. pg 123 The moon was already high in the sky, impatient for night to fall. pg 110 "Felicia learned her florid language on those nights. She would borrow freely from the poems she'd heard, stringing words together like laundry on a line, connecting ideas and descriptions she couldn't have planned. Querido Gustavo, The civil war came and went and now there are dictatorships in both our countries. Half the world is at war, worse than it's ever been before. Death alone is reliable. I still love you, Gustavo, but its a habitual love, a wound in the knee that predicts rain. Memory is a skilled seducer. I write to you because I must. I don't even know if you're alive and whom you love now. I asked myself once, "What is the nature of obsession?" But I no longer question it. I accept it the way I accept my husband and my daughters and my life on the wicker swing, my life of ordinary seductions. I've begun teaching myself French. Tu Celia
Marie
I enjoyed this book of a Cuban family and the way they adapt to the revolution and its aftereffects. I believe it's the first book I've ever read about Cuba. The plot jumps around a great deal, as do the character perspectives...each chapter is told by a different person, sometimes in first person and sometimes in third person. This is not my favorite style for a book, but I tolerated it. Towards the middle of the novel, I was longing for a more straightforward book.Garcia paints the setting of Cuba well, and she describes the odd combination of austerity, politics, color and fauna, the sea, insanity, and magic that is Cuba now and before the revolution. Garcia's characters seem cursed and unhappy--this is not what I would call an uplifting book--they are constantly seeking happiness and fulfillment but do not know where to turn. They turn away from each other, though, that's for sure. The two sisters and brother and their spouses, the mother who is longing for her lost lover, the father who tries to break his wife's spirit, and the grandchildren who feel they have lost something unidentifiable...the family ties are extremely fragile and tenuous, which made me very sad.
SarahC
Actually 2 1/2 stars---Dreaming in Cuban is one of those novels that is somewhat a struggle to read. It is interesting but at the same time disjointed. Perhaps the author hopes to represent the disjointed lives of Cubans and Cuban-Americans during the Batistan government and after the Cuban Revolution by using a very disjointed narrative. I feel that method of writing isn’t necessary to get the point across.The novel describes the lives of three generations of a Cuban family prior to and since the revolution that overturned their country and redefined everything. The central character Celia del Pino grew up in a broken family and many of her struggles are truly personal. As her own children reach adulthood, the sanctioned government falls to the revolution and the del Pinos become more fragmented. Two daughters, Felicia and Lourdes, make separate choices between the United States and Cuba, but their common thread is that of mental and emotional imbalance. And finally, growing up in the U.S., Lourdes’ daughter Pilar embodies the conflicts of all the generations, feeling old at twenty-one, wishing to embrace the Cuban roots her parents left behind, and hearing the voice of her Abuela Celia in quiet moments.In the forms of various character viewpoints and the long-running letters of Celia to a past lover, the novel tells many details that make the results of revolution a living story. In the words of granddaughter Pilar, “Cuba is a peculiar exile, I think an island-colony. We can reach it by a thirty-minute charter flight from Miami, yet never reach it at all.”An important story here is the effect of the revolutionary outcome on Celia and her impact on the revolution. I wanted more of Celia and her life as she chose to support El Lider Fidel Castro with all her energy. However the stories of the dysfunction of daughters Felicia and Lourdes were less satisfying and seemed to get in the way of Celia’s story. We saw some of the story of this aging woman Celia, but not enough.I do feel that Garcia’s writing structure and detail become barriers to what is really an exquisite human story. Not for a minute did I not want to read this story and it has been on my to-read list for ages. However, some of the symbolism is overdone. The repeated references to the tidal wave of 1932 is seemingly symbolic of destruction within Celia’s life, but I just think this symbol was used too heavily, along with that of the sea-salt-bleached piano. The continuous sexual descriptions were possibly meant as symbolic of emptiness, struggle, or heartbreak, but became tedious and lessened the strength and maturity of the story.Many of the elements of the story do motivate me to learn more of Cuba and seek out other authors telling of the personal repercussions of revolution so close to the U.S. both in geography and in American family histories.
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