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Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba…

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba

by Margarita Engle

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    Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse (avatiakh)
    avatiakh: another verse novel

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Narrated by four readers. Here's a book about an aspect of WWII history I hadn't heard about: Jewish refugees in Cuba. During the war Cuba took in 60,000 refugees, more than any other Latin American country and about as much as the United States. This poetry novel is told through four perspectives, the main one being Daniel, a 12-year-old boy sent off on the boat because his parents could only afford one passage. David is an older Ukraine Jew who sells ice cream and has lived in Cuba for decades. Young Paloma secretly assists the Quakers with the refugees, unbeknownst to her father, El Gordo, who profits from selling entry visas to the Jews. An intriguing story for what it means to be to be free. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
"Music is the only part
of Cuba's heated air

that feels like something
I can breathe"

Lovely book about an aspect of the Holocaust of which I was unaware. Even though this is poetry, I think that even reluctant readers would do good as there are compelling reasons to finish this book and find out what happens to the different characters. ( )
  GR8inD8N | Feb 23, 2014 |
After their ship was not allowed to dock in the United States or Canada, boatloads of Jewish refugees from Europe headed for the small island of Cuba. Some were allowed to disembark; others were not. In free verse, this tells the story of a teenage boy who left his family behind in Germany and learned to live in Cuba. ( )
  lilibrarian | Dec 3, 2012 |
I got this book from the library but have to get a real paper copy for myself because I need to pass this one around. This has to be one my top 5 reads for the year. It's a book written in verse about a 13 year old Jewish boy whose parents manage to get him out of Germany in 1939 on a refugee ship bound for America. The ship was refused entry into both the US and Canada but, after paying bribes, refugees were allowed into Cuba. Only such simple, beautiful poetry could express so clearly what Daniel has left behind in Germany. Speaking of kristallnacht:

"How can hatred have
such a beautiful name?
Crystal should be clear,
but on that dark night
the glass of broken windows
did not glitter."

Adjusting to a new land:

"I am not accustomed to buildings
with trees and flowers at the center
and a view of open sky
right in the middle of the house
where one would expect to find
a stone fireplace
and sturdy brick walls.

...here I am
in the sweaty tropics,
struggling to breathe humid air
that feels as thick as the steam
from a pot of my mother's
fragrant tea."

He meets a young girl named Paloma who loves birds and lives with her enterprising father El Gordo, named not for his girth but for the girth of his wallet. He is one deciding how much money in bribes will be necessary to allow refugees to land instead of being sent back to death in Europe. She secretly gives Daniel cool clothing meant for her tropical island rather than the warm German clothing he came with:

"and I give him one of my father's
many fine Panama hats,
an expensive jipijapa hat,
cool and comfortable
like a splendid circle of shade
from a portable tree."

They meet David, an older refugee from Russia who talks about a time when Carnival was

"cancelled when a Cuban official decided
the dances were too African,
too tribal...
but outlawing dance in Cuba
is like trying to hide the sun
with one finger."

Paloma describes the peace doves she is allowed to keep:

"the peace doves
are far too trusting
to survive in the wild
where hungry cats
pursue them."

There's lots of poetry about making music because Daniel comes from a musical family and loves making music himself with anything he has at hand from instruments made out of pots and pans or turtle shells to a donated guitar. He participates in Carnival with Paloma, but feels guilty when he finds it is a religious holiday. He is constantly torn between his young man's urge to celebrate life and his awareness of the evils of some humans and the yearning for peace and to be reunited with his family.

This is a book you can easily read in an hour but will want to draw out as long as possible ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Aug 9, 2010 |
Beautifully written story of a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany and heads across to North America. The boat he is on is turned away from Canada and the US so heads to Cuba. He befriends a young local girl and a Russian Jew. An interesting and little known piece of history. ( )
  phh333 | Jun 25, 2010 |
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No se puede tapar el sol con un dedo. You can't cover up the sun with one finger. Cuban Folk Saying
To my parents Martin and Eloisa Mondrus
The Cramer - Barash Family 2009
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Last year in Berlin, on the Night of Crystal, my grandfather was killed while I held his hand.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805089365, Hardcover)

Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away his ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba.

As the tropical island begins to work its magic on him, the young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Escaping from Nazi Germany to Cuba in 1939, a young Jewish refugee dreams of finding his parents again, befriends a local girl with painful secrets of her own, and discovers that the Nazi darkness is never far away.

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