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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a…
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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy (2003)

by Carlos Eire

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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.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | May 19, 2015 |
A memoir of a young boy's upbringing in a privileged neighborhood of Havana, leading up to Castro's takeover. The son of an eccentric judge and his dashing wife, they and the older generations keep alive a notion of "colonial" Cuba, while Carlos, his brother Tony and pals find endless mischief and exude boyish excitement in the increasing sounds of gunfire and bombs, a portent of, as he calls it, "the day the world changed". Eire uses a unique style of memoir, with sudden digressions, evocations of his parents former incarnations (he refers to his father throughout as Louis XVI), emotional riffs, a dreamscape feel at times. Not always to my liking but I grew accustomed. This is clearly a heartfelt, and even anguished, testimony of an adventurous but also threatened childhood. And a childhood cruelly cut short. Best parts were his great observations of characters and scenes of a long lost Havana, as well as a boy's eye view of the dark changes, such as televised executions, preceding and during the early days of Castro's regime. ( )
  JamesMScott | Apr 17, 2015 |
My husband and I bought this for my father-in-law, who is Cuban and roughly the same age as the author. He loved it. He kept telling us, "Yes, this is exactly what I remember!" I read it out of curiosity, just to try to get a little insight into this mostly Cuban family I married into. I enjoyed it. There were some very dark spots, and there were a lot of hilarious incidents, but the whole thing really shone with the author's love for his country and his sense of loss at the way his beloved country has turned out. He has settled into American life, and he sounds happy, but he left some of his heart in Cuba. I sort of see that in my father-in-law. I would recommend this to anyone, but especially to anyone who wants to gain some insight in Cuban culture and even a little bit of Cuban politics. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
Eire's experiences and the writing that eludicates them into vibrancy gained this memoir five stars. The sentences flow from prose to poetic, and he describes the surroundings so well, without dragging the pace down. I didn't know a lot about Cuba during the time of Castro coming into power, but now I understand why Cuban exiles in the UNited States feel so strongly. Definite recommendation. ( )
  sriemann | Apr 1, 2013 |
Cuba...land of tangerine sunsets and turquoise waves...steamy heat and voodoo curses. I loved reading the memoir of a judge's son who is close to my age but who grew up in very different circumstances. Carlos's first 11 years were the carefree days of a child of means. Days of family gatherings, bike riding, swimming, movies, and tormenting the ubiquitous lizards -- minus half a star for that! The revolution is hinted at from time to time, and like a bruise one can't help touching to see if it still hurts, Carlos returns over and over to those tumultuous times that shaped his years of childhood until he was "expelled from paradise."

14,000 children left Cuba without their parents in the early 1960s because they didn't need the visas that took up to a year to obtain. The idea was that the parents would soon follow them to a reunion in the U.S. These youngsters left their country and families carrying only two sets of clothes, a hat, and a book..."the only hint of mercy." It was an abrupt transition from life in Cuba to the U.S. Almost four years in orphanages and foster homes passed until Carlos and his brother Tony were able to join their mother in Chicago:

..."As the train began to roll past the steel mills and oil refineries on the South Side of Chicago, it seemed we had passed through the gates of hell. We saw acres and acres of smokestacks shooting out flames, huge twisting labyrinths of pipes, mazes of twisting stairs, giant spheres, and colossal storage tanks. But it was the flames that make me reel. Big, noisy flames. Balls of flame. Jets. Plumes. Flares. Soft, dancing flames that swayed in the wind and made the chimneys look like giant candles at Satan's dinner table. Fountains of fire. Satan's Versailles." (195)

Carlos writes with pathos and passion about his memories of his homeland - a country that is part of him but still a place he will not visit while it is under the oppressive Castro regime. I guess in his case it's true that you can't go home again. ( )
8 vote Donna828 | Jun 18, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743246411, Paperback)

“Have mercy on me, Lord, I am Cuban.” In 1962, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba—exiled from his family, his country, and his own childhood by the revolution. The memories of Carlos's life in Havana, cut short when he was just eleven years old, are at the heart of this stunning, evocative, and unforgettable memoir.

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.

Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is a eulogy for a native land and a loving testament to the collective spirit of Cubans everywhere.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:55 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"In 1962, at the age of eleven, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, his parents left behind. His life until then is the subject of Waiting for Snow in Havana, a wry, heartbreaking, intoxicatingly beautiful memoir of growing up in a privileged Havana household - and of being exiled from his own childhood by the Cuban revolution." "That childhood, until his world changes, is as joyous and troubled as any other - but with exotic differences. Lizards roam the house and grounds. Fights aren't waged with snowballs but with breadfruit. The rich are outlandishly rich, like the eight-year-old son of a sugar baron who has a real miniature race car, or the neighbor with a private animal garden, complete with tiger. All this is bathed in sunlight and shades of turquoise and tangerine: the island of Cuba, says one of the stern monks at Carlos's school, might have been the original Paradise - and it is tempting to believe." "His father is a municipal judge and an obsessive collector of art and antiques, convinced that in a past life he was Louis XVI and that his wife was Marie Antoinette. His mother looks to the future; conceived on a transatlantic liner bound for Cuba from Spain, she wants her children to be modern, which means embracing all things American. His older brother electrocutes lizards. Surrounded by eccentrics, in a home crammed with portraits of Jesus that speak to him in dreams and nightmares, Carlos searches for secret proofs of the existence of God." "Then, in January 1959, President Batista is suddenly gone, a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Castro has taken his place, and Christmas is canceled. The echo of firing squads is everywhere. At the Aquarium of the Revolution, sharks multiply in a swimming pool. And one by one, the author's schoolmates begin to disappear - spirited away to the United States. Carlos will end up there himself, alone, never to see his father again."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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