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Adios, Happy Homeland by Ana Menéndez
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Adios, Happy Homeland

by Ana Menéndez

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I don't know why there are so few copies of Adios, Happy Homeland! on LibraryThing at the moment, and thus why it isn't better known. It is fantastic.

It caught me off guard because it very much uses the Literary Agent Hypothesis (warning: TVTropes link), which is one of my favorite things in fiction. The book is formatted like an anthology of short stories, including author bios in the back, which is the part that tricked me, until I started reading. All the stories are interconnected in some way, and they all share a theme of "flight" (both the literal flying definition and the escape connotation). There is a lot of imagery of trains, balloons, swimming, holes-in-the-sky-to-the-stars, and as related images, wind and the stars.

Ana Menéndez is a Cuban-American author from California. The stories all have a Cuban perspective, which is why I'd originally picked the book up (I wanted to read literature from a place I'd never done before, particularly places in the Caribbean or South America). Some stories take place in Cuba, others in Miami or no-place-in-particular. One story is written in Spanish, though a link is included for an English translation on Menéndez's website.

The book is very modern, with lots of plays on language and meaning...I guess it's postmodern, too? But I mean modern in that it explicitly references the Internet and even has a footnote to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stowaway). I think one of the stories is about the Elian Gonzalez custody battle back in the '90s, but I'm not positive that it isn't about a similar but fictional child. That's one of the things about the stories and the way they play with reality and the meaning of things - it's magical realism, I suppose, and a fictionalization or warping of actual things. There's math in one of the stories, and poetry, and folk meteorology...

At first, once I realized that Adios, Happy Homeland! uses the literary agent hypothesis, I wasn't sure if it wasn't a little amateurish and clumsy because of how obvious some of the themes are. But I think it is a great piece of literary fiction and not so amateur at all - the more I consider it and talk about it, the more I realize how carefully and intricately it is crafted, and those obvious themes are just on the surface.

If anything, the story that follows a woman's life backwards as she succumbs to Alzheimer's and remembers her life in reverse is great. I've never read anything quite like it before, though the premise seems kind of obvious. The Spanish-language chapter I referred to above was particularly amusing to me once I read the translation - it's all about translation and reading in another language.

I truly loved Adios, Happy Homeland! and the experience of reading it. I am so happy that I browsed the library stacks one day and took a chance on it - and I hope that more people will do the same. ( )
1 vote keristars | Jan 8, 2012 |
How does one escape? From what one does one need to escape? Why? Ana Menéndez's new collection of interlinked tales is all about escape artists, starting with the author herself. Each tale is attributed to a concocted author, for whom Menéndez has supplied an appropriately imaginative biographical note, including one for herself: "Ana Menéndez is the pseudonym of an imaginary writer and translator, invented, if not to lend coherence to this collection, at least to offer it the pretense of contemporary relevance."

Adios, Happy Homeland! is a flight of fancy, or rather, a collection of flights of fancy.... more at Belletrista: http://www.belletrista.com/2011/Issue12/reviews_2.php ( )
1 vote janeajones | Jul 31, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802170846, Paperback)

In this follow-up to her beloved, prize-winning debut, In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Ana Menéndez delivers a liberating, magical, and modern take on the idea of migration and flight.

Adios, Happy Homeland! is a wildly innovative collection of interlinked tales that challenge our preconceptions of storytelling. This critical look at the life of the Cuban writer pulls apart and reassembles the myths that have come to define her culture, blending illusion with reality and exploring themes of art, family, language, superstition, and the overwhelming need to escape—from the island, from memory, from stereotype, and, ultimately, from the self. We’re taken into a sick man’s fever dream as he waits for a train beneath a strange night sky, into a community of parachute makers facing the end in a windy town that no longer exists, and onto a Cuban beach where the body of a boy last seen on a boat bound for America turns out to be a giant jellyfish.

With Adios Happy Homeland!, Menéndez puts a contemporary twist on the troubled history of Cuba and offers a wry and poignant perspective on the conundrum of cultural displacement. Smart, accessible, and literary, it is a captivating portrayal of how stories are translated, (mis)interpreted, and shaped across time and traditions.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:41 -0400)

"Adios, Happy Homeland! is a group of interlinked tales that challenge our preconceptions of storytelling. This critical look at the life of the Cuban writer pulls apart and reassembles the myths that have come to define Menendez's culture, blending illusion with reality and exploring themes of art, family, language, superstition, and the need to escape --from the island, from memory, stereotype, and from the self. We're taken into a sick man's fever dream as he waits for a train beneath a strange night sky, into a community of parachute makers facing the end in a windy town that no longer exists, and onto a Cuban beach where strange debris washes ashore in the wake of a mother and son's hurried escape on a boat bound for America."… (more)

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