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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a…

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

by Carlos Eire

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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 |
Biographical essays illustrating the privileged life of the wealthy in pre-Castro Havana by an American immigrant who is now a religious studies professor at Yale. The essays are linked by the sense of anarchy in a (typical?) boy's life: destroying things, acting aggressively towards friends and family. I couldn't relate to this. There are number of insights which struck me: a chance comment by Carlos' nanny gives him the misconception that he will turn black if he eats dark colored foods, when in fact the flight from Havana to Florida (at age 11) was much more effective in that transformation. Lots of religious beliefs portending his future career? Very well written with interesting material. ( )
1 vote CynthiaBelgum | Sep 12, 2010 |
Subtitled “Confessions of a Cuban Boy,” this memoir first caught my eye because of the great title, then because it was written by one of the boys separated from his family during the early reign of Fidel Castro, during the Operation Pedro Pan exodus, an attempt to save children of those deemed against the Revolution, those most in danger.

The book almost lost me when the author along with other little boys, cruel as children often can be, started torturing lizards, symbolic of much to come. I expected a typical memoir but that is certainly not what I got. The writing is not linear, the author speaks to us readers directly, and frequently gives hints of what is to come, promises to tell us more later. The style is quirky and was a bit disconcerting to me until I gave myself over to the author's story.

The child, Carlos, most often refers to his father as Louis XVI, as his father claimed to be in a former life, and his mother as Marie Antoinette, although she did not claim to be a reincarnation. His father was a judge and an attorney, one of the privileged ones under Batista. Childhood in Havana is painted in pictures vibrant and astounding, family and friends all coming to life. Very little of the book deals with Carlos or his family after Carlos was separated from his brother, the only person he knew in the United States, as soon as they landed.

Some examples of the author's style of prose:

“Crotons of all kinds. Giant philodendrons. Caladiums. Flowers. Palms in all shapes and sizes. Especially royal palms, so tall, so regal. So Cuban. Palms that pierce my heart and entrails to this very day.”

“I was one of the lucky ones. Fidel couldn't obliterate me as he did all the other children, slicing off their heads over so slowly, and replacing them with fearful, slavish copies of his own. New heads held in place by two bolts, like Boris Karloff's in Frankenstein, one bolt forged from fear, the other from illusion.”

“If Adam and Eve hadn't screwed up so badly, and their children had been able to play in the Garden of Eden, they would have laughed just like we did that day, when we threw rocks at one another on the edge of the turquoise sea.”

“To understand Fidel you have to be out of your mind. To live with the memories, too, it helps to have lucid moments that others mistake for delusions.”

This lyrical memoir is written with a strange mix of philosophy, religion, symbolism, and an adult's remembrance of his childhood: family, Havana, and the politics of the day. It is serious, touching, beautiful, funny, and entertaining. I loved it. ( )
1 vote TooBusyReading | Jun 22, 2010 |
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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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