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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

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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, 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 firingsquads 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. Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in our lives when we are certain we have died -- and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.


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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, 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 firingsquads 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. Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in our lives when we are certain we have died -- and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.

30 review for Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Newly arrived in a city and state where I know virtually no one, my immediate inclination is to seek out the readers. Sure enough, there are book clubs at the library, in bookstores, in the adult learning program housed at the nearby world-class university. Starting with the local library, I dutifully picked up a copy of the January selection, this memoir of a world and a boyhood lost to the Cuban Revolution. I figured I'd zip through it, go to the discussion and get on to something I really Newly arrived in a city and state where I know virtually no one, my immediate inclination is to seek out the readers. Sure enough, there are book clubs at the library, in bookstores, in the adult learning program housed at the nearby world-class university. Starting with the local library, I dutifully picked up a copy of the January selection, this memoir of a world and a boyhood lost to the Cuban Revolution. I figured I'd zip through it, go to the discussion and get on to something I really want to read. One full month later, it's finally done, one of the longer 400-page books I've read recently. Why such a slog? I have a personal interest in the Cuban Revolution (I was in Havana on the pivotal day of January 1, 1959); midway through the book, Cuba was back in the news as President Obama moved to normalize relations; and the book won the National Book Award in 2003. It should be riveting, si? Actually, for me, no. Carlos Eire lived a privileged, idyllic life in lush, sun-drenched Havana until he was shipped off to the U.S. with his brother in 1962 at the age of 11 as part of Operation Pedro Pan -- 14,000 unaccompanied children sent to the States by families devastated by the revolution. He lived in a foster home and an orphanage in Florida before his mother made it out and they took up the immigrant's life of menial labor and basement apartments in Chicago. His father, thinking Fidel wouldn't last, stayed behind to look after the family home and his precious collection of art and antiques. Carlos, today a professor of history and religious studies at Yale, never saw him again. This should be an easy book to love and apparently a lot of people did. Havana is lovingly evoked: the colors, the foliage, the sea, the food, above all, the sun. Young sons of well-to-do families had a carefree life, with servants, quirky relatives, neighborhood friends and the usual amusements of children. And so we get a full chapter about firecrackers, another about car surfing (don't ask), another about lizards, one about the satisfying splat a breadfruit makes when it hits its target, one about favorite movies, one about a birthday party, don't forget the peashooters...I could be wrong but it felt like 350 of the 400 pages of the book were about the joys, fears, pastimes and pranks of eight-year-olds. That may be true to the book's subtitle but I wanted more than the occasional glimpse of Castro, of the changes in Cuba, and of Eire's life in the U.S. He makes clear his feelings about Castro, describing post-revolutionary Cuba as "the deepest circle of hell," but this isn't a book about politics. It's a book that mourns a lost way of life. I can't fault Eire for not writing the book I wanted to read. I know he wrote a second memoir about his life in the States and maybe I would have preferred that one. But this is the one I read. Given recent events and the ensuing debate about the wisdom of softening our stance toward Cuba, the discussion at the library might have been lively and interesting. Sadly, I didn't make it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    This is the true story of Carlos Eire, professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University. Paraphrase of book: I have a great story to tell. Why, you ask. Is it because it deals with the revolution in Cuba? Is it because it is a memoir? Is it because I am a child narrator? No, no not at all. It's because it is about....me! Had this been about some figure I actually knew something about, or had at least heard of, I may have found all the rambling and anecdotes a little interesting. This is the true story of Carlos Eire, professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University. Paraphrase of book: I have a great story to tell. Why, you ask. Is it because it deals with the revolution in Cuba? Is it because it is a memoir? Is it because I am a child narrator? No, no not at all. It's because it is about....me! Had this been about some figure I actually knew something about, or had at least heard of, I may have found all the rambling and anecdotes a little interesting. As it was, it was like sitting down in a hospital waiting room next to an eight year-old boy, a stranger who decides to relate to you all the funny, little incidents about his life as a kid. For him, perhaps his family, even his friends, this might be very interesting and entertaining. For me, not at all. Had he have told the story of what happened when Fidel Castro and his rebels ousted Batista - from his perspective as an eight year-old boy in Cuba - then it may have been a compelling story. But to read about a spoilt, little rich boy who lived with his weird family in Cuba in the 1950s, whose father believed himself to be the reincarnation of Louis XVI and his mother, Marie Antoinette and a brother who electrocuted lizards for fun....nope. I just didn't care. I was bored. I was waiting for something ....anything to happen. Waiting for something to happen in this book, was like, well.... Waiting for Snow in Havana. *Thanks again, Kinga for providing me with another book to add to my growing list of literature. Do you deliberately pick out the weirdest people and stories for me??

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Schulzetenberg

    Full disclosure: The author of this book is a family friend, and although I wouldn't say that I know him well, I have met him a few times. Some people have fascinating stories to tell. Some people are able to write well. A select few people have both interesting stories, and a flair for authoring. Carlos Eire is one of those people. On its surface, this is a very simple book. It's about a story that most people are at least moderately familiar with. Fidel Castro leads a successful rebellion Full disclosure: The author of this book is a family friend, and although I wouldn't say that I know him well, I have met him a few times. Some people have fascinating stories to tell. Some people are able to write well. A select few people have both interesting stories, and a flair for authoring. Carlos Eire is one of those people. On its surface, this is a very simple book. It's about a story that most people are at least moderately familiar with. Fidel Castro leads a successful rebellion against Batista in Cuba, and thousands of Cuban refugees flee the country in order to establish new lives in the US. The part that sets this book apart is the excellent memories and descriptions of being a young boy in Batista's Cuba. All the typical stuff of boyhood is there, including mischief and complex relationships with family and school, but there's also a strong undercurrent of innocence lost, which parallels nicely with the fall of Cuba. All tied up in all of this is the impact of Eire's Catholic heritage, lurking as a crucifix in every corner of his mind. Eire doesn't make an effort to capture the fighting of the revolution, or the immigrant experience; he doesn't have to. Instead, he focuses on his personal story. A very fresh book, I've read nothing like it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine Schaffer

    This was one of the worst books I have read in quite some time. I had hoped to learn more about the overthrow of Batista and the rise of Castro and the Revolution, but instead had to plow through the memories of an unlikable eight to twelve-year-old boy. Eire's constant references to how privileged he was and how influenced he was by American pop culture grew very tiresome. After the first several stories about the movies and comics he liked, the swimming clubs he frequented, the lizards he This was one of the worst books I have read in quite some time. I had hoped to learn more about the overthrow of Batista and the rise of Castro and the Revolution, but instead had to plow through the memories of an unlikable eight to twelve-year-old boy. Eire's constant references to how privileged he was and how influenced he was by American pop culture grew very tiresome. After the first several stories about the movies and comics he liked, the swimming clubs he frequented, the lizards he killed, the beautiful neighborhood he lived in and the servants at his disposal, I just wanted to say, "okay, I get it, enough, tell me something interesting." The writing was full of cliches and the book had absolutely no story line. It was a disjointed mess. I don't know how many times he used the phrase "fast forward" but it was way too many for me and all within about four chapters. I would have tossed this book after about the first half, but was reading it for a book club, so I soldiered on. Actually, the last chapter was the best, not only because I was nearing the end of the tedium, but because it felt like the most genuine and honest recollection he gave us. Sadly, I think that Eire missed an opportunity to write a great book about his experiences as part of the Pedro Pan airlift of children from Cuba and the history of his homeland. Unfortunately, this book missed the mark.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    As the son of two Cuban-Americans driven from their homeland by a tragic communist revolution, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In response to the constant pestering by my mother to read it, I finally picked up the novel, which was written by Carlos Eire, a man who not only has a great name but is also my mother's age. The writing style of this autobiographical novel is quite unique. The chapters of Eire's book seem to jump non-chronologically from one childhood instance in pre-Castro Cuba to As the son of two Cuban-Americans driven from their homeland by a tragic communist revolution, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In response to the constant pestering by my mother to read it, I finally picked up the novel, which was written by Carlos Eire, a man who not only has a great name but is also my mother's age. The writing style of this autobiographical novel is quite unique. The chapters of Eire's book seem to jump non-chronologically from one childhood instance in pre-Castro Cuba to another and then at times to the more recent past, his life in america after the revolucion- rather, revoluTion, sorry. Despite all this "skipping around", as a reader I never felt lost. Now about the story. This novel charmingly recounts the childhood experiences of a boy growing up in a Cuba before Castro, when a different tyrant, by the name of Fulgencio Batista, still held the reins in Cuba. This is a world ever influenced by the neighboring United States, but still unique. Uniquely tropical, uniquely sophisticated, uniquely Catholic, and uniquely mysterious. The activities of Batista's secret police force, and his other intimidating abuses of power create a constant uneasy feeling in the novel, like a storm looming in the distance, you know it's coming but want to ignore it at the same time. True to all the stories I've heard of the exile, Eire faithfully and unapologetically recounts the events of his departure from Cuba after the rise of Castro. With the black and white television in his living room showing a constant line-up of political prisoners being executed by firing squad, we see a twelve-year-old Eire struggling with the reality that he will have to leave his homeland, never knowing when he will return again, if ever. This novel, since it is actually written by a Cuban, impresses me with its account of the historical events. Here in the U.S., the situation in Cuba is always clouded in some sort of mystery and the full story never seems to be divulged. Some see the revolution as a deliverance from the corrupt Batista at the hands of Castro and the ever-popular revolutionary Che Guevara to a free-Cuba, a Cuba Libre! As it has been known... this is a lie. The truth is, Batista was a murdering criminal and a corrupt tyrant. So is Fidel Castro. Castro and his right-hand man Che Guevara murdered thousands upon thousands of political prisoners without due process (think about that next time you see a t-shirt with Che Guevara's picture on it). These men aren't heroes, heroes fight for Truth and justice, and for the good of all, but these men fought simply for power, money, and fame. Eire captures these truths poignantly in this novel.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Every student going into their sophomore year at my son's high school must read this book over the summer. I like keeping up with what my kids are reading, so I read it too. I would like to hear why this book was chosen, and am curious what the students will be quizzed on, regarding this book, in the fall. I have several opinions about this book. First, it could have been interesting about the Cuban Revolution but every time the author came near some details or a complete story, the focus would Every student going into their sophomore year at my son's high school must read this book over the summer. I like keeping up with what my kids are reading, so I read it too. I would like to hear why this book was chosen, and am curious what the students will be quizzed on, regarding this book, in the fall. I have several opinions about this book. First, it could have been interesting about the Cuban Revolution but every time the author came near some details or a complete story, the focus would take a turn. But the author was also a child during this time period, so perhaps much should be forgiven for this. Which brings me to my second point, there is NO linear structure to this book. The childhood stories are blended with stories from when he moved/escaped to the U.S. which are mixed in with his personal philosophy, religious views and visions, nightmares, proofs of God, ramblings on hating philosopher Immanuel Kant, to more childhood stories where he and his friends were tormenting monkeys, lizards, the town drunk, playing with fireworks, etc. Ultimately, I feel sorry for the author. He seems very scarred by the occurrences in this book, and who can blame him? I hope writing this book exorcises some of these demons, brings him some peace and forgiveness, and helps him get past his post traumatic stress disorder. But I can't help but think this is a personal journey, not to be published, or minimally, not to be inflicted on high school students who don't have the perspective (nor does the author) to process this mighty life changing event. The good news is I can count this book for my Revolution read for the SL County summer challenge!! :)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    In 1962 Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba-exiled from his family at age 11. The Cuban revolution took away his family, his beloved country, his friends, and, most importantly, his childhood. The memories of his Cuban life are an exorcisan and to tribute to a paradise lost: the island of his youth. The lizards, turquoise seas and sun drenched siestas are the heart of this memoir. After Castro ousts Batista music sounds like gunfire, Christmas is illegal, and the wait to In 1962 Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba-exiled from his family at age 11. The Cuban revolution took away his family, his beloved country, his friends, and, most importantly, his childhood. The memories of his Cuban life are an exorcisan and to tribute to a paradise lost: the island of his youth. The lizards, turquoise seas and sun drenched siestas are the heart of this memoir. After Castro ousts Batista music sounds like gunfire, Christmas is illegal, and the wait to see " who didn't comeback today" is agonizing. The book is so well written I felt as though I was right in the middle of the Eire family; crying, laughing and suspicious of every chnge. Carlos ends up a successful American which was always his mother's dream. But the price is high; in doing ao, he leaves his soul in the country he loves. This is one of the best memoirs I have read. I love memoirs and have read many, so my rating of this book is unconditional.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    My dad is a Cuban refugee and was part of the Pedro Pan lift. He left Cuba with his older sister when he was 9. My grandfather was one of the chiefs of police in Havana and was imprisoned by the Communists. His friends were all shot ("paredon! paredon!"). I've heard stories of Cuba *before* Castro, but precious few. Carlos Eire's memoir of Cuba before his emigration to the states filled in the world for me in a way that I had never understood it. I found myself asking my dad questions about rock My dad is a Cuban refugee and was part of the Pedro Pan lift. He left Cuba with his older sister when he was 9. My grandfather was one of the chiefs of police in Havana and was imprisoned by the Communists. His friends were all shot ("paredon! paredon!"). I've heard stories of Cuba *before* Castro, but precious few. Carlos Eire's memoir of Cuba before his emigration to the states filled in the world for me in a way that I had never understood it. I found myself asking my dad questions about rock fights and firecrackers after reading chapters of the book and hearing his own personal stores, seeing scars from stories very similar to those in the book. Beyond the personal connection, the book's language is poetic. I've never read anything quite like it. I loved the writing, the imagery, the dreaming. I loved the colors and the textures. The act of reading was rich, and I did so slowly. A masterful book. Highly recommended.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hai Quan

    If you don't know what is CARGOISM, please consult a dictionary. I did, and if I am not remember or understand it incorrectly, it means a passion for material largess dropping down from the sky by US airplanes.The recipients of the goods were the barbarians of some remote island, who thought the cargoes were from some gods, not human.Year after year , they were waiting for more similar goods from the sky, and since they have never seen any more, they have been performing some kind of ritual If you don't know what is CARGOISM, please consult a dictionary. I did, and if I am not remember or understand it incorrectly, it means a passion for material largess dropping down from the sky by US airplanes.The recipients of the goods were the barbarians of some remote island, who thought the cargoes were from some gods, not human.Year after year , they were waiting for more similar goods from the sky, and since they have never seen any more, they have been performing some kind of ritual dance to plead the gods to send them some more of the largess. I can understand this behavior from these barbarians, but it make me sick to witness this cheap desire in people who are not only awash in material possession, but also from his or her intelligence, has acquired a higher level of formal education. Examples are the author of this book and one of his contemporary, also a college professor, Mirta OJITO ( FINDING MANANA, to which I also reviewed) They made me sick, really sick. Now I don't have any problem with people who spend all his daytime ,year in and year out to make more and more money.But I detest the pseudo intelligentsia , save his or her GENUINE UNIVERSITY DEGREE, who CLUMSILY cover his or her base animal instinctive lust for ---- good food, good drink,nice car, exquisite house ( with swimming pool) and good looking bed partner ---- with lots of bogus political and fake philosophical rambling discourses and poorly disguised lie and dishonesty as in the case of FROF. EIRE and OJITO. Before I go into details, let me briefly list here all his lies : HE lied about his motive to immigrate to the US , actually he was sent to the US at a tender age of 11 together with his brother ,so actually he lied about his parents motive .I will prove their motive was to stuff their sons pockets with a lot of greenbacks, NOT BECAUSE THEY HATE FIDEL AND HIS DICTATORSHIP. Even though they were leading a pampered lives with the wealth of their father , a self-confessed ( with a rather straight face) , corrupt high ranking government official, their father with boundless greed, wanted more and more for their offspring, to the extend to send them off to another country without any possibility of ever to reunite with them. It is so pathetic, his lies.If he just simply recount the story of his being sent , together with thousands of other Cuban children , to the US to satisfy the desire for more material gain of their parents, similar to the above mentioned cargo worship barbarians, then it is acceptable , if not admirable.However, Eire , as a college prof., similar to Ojito, was too proud to admit this cheap weakness .If everyone flee their countries when there were so much hardship, so much killing and robbing by BIG BAD MONSTERS, how can the world be a better place for its following generation ? If Gandhi fled India while it was mauled by that disgusting royal family, and Ho chi Minh did likewise while Viet Nam was raped by that disgusting French Empire and equally disgusting American Empire,what will happen to the bloodied people of these countries? These two authors, have tried to cloak it with more respectable ( BUT FALSE, BOGUS ) nice looking, nice sounding outer layer, but rather weak political and social disagreement with Fidel 's "MY WAY" Therefore, he even lied in the very title of his memoir.It should have been entitled "WAITING FOR CARGO IN HAVANA" instead of "WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA" Snow my foot ! What dishonesty ! He lied about Fidel and Che and their struggle to protect fiercely the dignity of not only their own, but for all Cubans.Dignity of a free people, free and independent country , and their country sacred sovereignty in face of the big , bad bully next door trying very hard in many years to rob the tiny Cuban nation of their ancestral land, to turn it into its nth state, not unlike the whole sale massacre of the American Indian to rob almost all of their ancestral territory .This fact is known by everybody except Eire and Ojito. Everybody knew also numerous failed , very dirty attempts on Fidel's life by the evil US governments including the most stupid one about exploding cigar. But lying is the least of his character defects.The most amazing and vomit inducing act of his was the shameless self-grandiosity.Please read it , from the very page of his memoir. I warrant your throwing up all of your stomach content . This idiot, save his degree from a prestigious university, has the steel nerve ( and one- inch thick skin on his ....presumably handsome....face) to compare himself to a Russian Astronaut, Gagarin ! I am not kidding , read it for yourself. After praising the astronaut with his daring , who he said had balls as big as a coconut and as hard ( quite acceptable) he boasted he also possessed balls in order to undertake his adventure from the hell hole Cuba to his paradise the US of A.( Excuse me, what have you just uttered , prof. of STUPIDITY AND SELF-GRANDIOSITY ???) Balls you said ? Eh, balls ? Carl, let me tell you, you shameless idiot.YOUR BALL IS ABOUT THE SIZE OF a GRAIN OF mongo bean (regardless how many babies you fathered) , AND AS SOFT AS WET NOODLE.You and all the Cuban criminals in Florida. This is another lie from Prof. Eire.He has never admitted among the Cuban immigrants are a large number of thieves, murderers , robbers and other hardcore criminals released from Cuban prisons.They have commit many criminal acts, including blowing up a bank in Florida.( Eire has swear his admirable uncle didn't participate in this bombing.Sure Carl, we believe you ) A bad joke made by the much hated "Extreme Leader" ! You see, if you and your gang members had balls, YOU would have STAYed or came back (not under the skirt of UNCLE SAM ) AND kicked ASSESS OF THE BLOKES YOU HATEd , JUST LIKE FIDEL .Didn't you see, Fidel stayed and kicked assess of that thief , that SOB Batista and his cohorts , not ran away and begged some foreigners to do it for you like your gang did.Remember BAY OF PIGS ?( My apology to Micheal Moore from stealing this core idea from his " DOWNSIZE THIS !" for which I also have written a review ) More lies from this scumbag.He has conveniently forgot to mention how bad,how dirty was Batista.For more info about this SOB, the readers are invited to read my book review of "FINDING MA~NANA " by one of Eire's (very likely best Cuban friend) contemporaries , also a University Prof., MIRTA OJITO. Professor Carl, The most shameful thing was, when your equally stupid masters ( also possessed tiny soft balls) failed miserably to execute their hare brain scheme in the disastrous invasion at the BAY OF PIGS , you behaved just like a crybaby who was denied mom 's tits , cried your head off.What pity !I really feel sorry for you and your gang of cowards ( worse, not only cowardice, they were without any self-respect and shame, the cargo cult sorts) When he blamed the failure of the BAY OF PIGS fiasco to "that damn Kennedy brothers " we could hear in the back ground his sobs! We almost feel sorry for the idiot. HEY philosopher Carl, REVOLUTION IS JUST LIKE DYING or MAKING LOVE , YOU NEED TO DO IT YOURSELF ( the same way what you and your childhood friends did with the innocent and lovely looking (for whom you detested) tiny lizards ),NO BODY CAN DO IT FOR YOU as much as nobody can hump your wife for you, you need to do it by yourself. However, all of my above accusations is tame if we compare with this AMAZINGLY WELL HIDDEN TRUTH ,the truth he hoped we wouldn't notice : His father, the late "KING OF FRANCE' and hence the author of the memoir himself ARE DIRECT DESCENDANTS OF THE FEARSOME , THIEVING, BLOOD THIRSTY , GOLD MAD , BIBLE THUMBING gang of thugs from the Spanish Empire of the yesteryear ,who centuries ago, went on a robbing and killing rampage through out much of the world, and of course the land now known as Cuba. And, amazing enough, he, the descendant of that disgusting murderers and robbers , the blood suckers and TORMENTORS OF THE CUBAN NATIVES, has the nerve to blame all his fake , imaginative current miseries to his ancestor's slaves , the TORMENTED Cuban .Fidel was just one among others.( There is no exclusion the possibility that ancestor female members of Fidel were not raped by their disgusting Spanish conquerors .However the similarity between Fidel and Eire ends here) Talk about sweet justice. Suddenly everything is as clear as daylight under blazing sun : No wonder Eire and his corrupt judge daddy were so sore about the "EXTREME LEADER" and his revolution that has eliminated a lot of their privileges..Of course, they missed the old indulgences , one of them was very good tasting morsels they have gorged themselves during the golden years under the reign of that dog , EMPEROR BAUTISTA among other indulgences ( for example, surfing his nice wheel through corrosive ocean water, with the author beside ) If we are lazy, we will easily fall for this gosh writer who are such clever liar,especially when armed with the respectability of a university degree from a P R E S T I G I O U S big ass institution. Another curious fact is the PROFESSOR 's use of the same sugar ( Christianity) to coat a very bitter pill (neo- COLONIALISM made in USA) to make it easier for the Cuban to swallow, NOT AT ALL UNLIKE the clever tactic of his ancestor the Spaniard, specifically that BIG HONCHO ,THE DISGUSTING blood sucker, King Phillip had used --to soften the resistance of the native people against the invading Spanish criminals centuries ago. It is so easy to understand, NOT SURPRISING AT ALL the fact the PROFESSOR was blabbing about THE BIG BOOK ( he being specialized in RELIGION STUDY ) IN almost every page of this collection of disgusting lies and self-serving white wash. What has he trying to washed away ? BLOOD my friends.Blood of countless natives in many COUNTRIES ,blood that soaked the boots of the Spanish "explorers". Funny, he thought he can get away with his cry wolf about Cuban traitors who were required to shed some of their dirty blood by the "extreme leader" .He kept repeating about this , without mentioning about how much blood his ancestor and most recently, the gangster Bautista had sucked from the Cuban people. The dishonesty of THE PROFESSOR is another amazing , albeit too childish regarding THE SWIMMING POOL CHOCK FULL OF CROCODILES .I don't really know why has he kept mentioning about this pool and these croc's.But lurking underneath of this is his dishonesty,perhaps he really wanted to accuse Fidel of keeping this pool of crocodiles to execute his enemies, but facing with the lack of evidence, he has tried to lure the readers into some vague notion of barbaric act from his most hated Fidel. Unworthy act of a person of his stature. As a professor of religion studies among others, HE ACTED AS THOUGHT HE WAS THE MOST PIOUS .He made many claims about his vision of Jesus Christ , who has made extra trouble to appear just for THE PROFESSOR 'S benefit. Well, let me ask you Carl.Do you really possess any shame, even very little ?Throughout your life, from a very young boy until now, you have been in constant lust after materialistic stuffs , isn't it so ? From beautiful actresses to comfy houses ( with swimming pool for Heaven sake), from COKE to French fries ( that gave you a peek of Heaven itself) ,You have complained bitterly about the shortage of this food and that food under the reign of that big bad Fidel. I have searched through every pages of your memoir.Not one shed , however tiny of any noble thinking.(Not to mention you killed all lizards in your neighbor, loved to hear loud noise - firecrackers, even bombs - the louder the better ,loved to throw BIG ROCKs AT your childhood friends while your much admired daddy looked on ....and many more disgusting acts, too numerous to be included here ).Pious my foot ! But to be fair, almost all the high priests of today are just like him, almost all have the similar delusion about how pious they are.This is the reason of the saying WHEN I DIED, I PREFER HELL.At least one will not have to see the like of THE PROFESSOR and or his high priest buddies . That alone is HEAVEN by itself , don't you think ? MORE LATER

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Means

    I wanted to like this book--I really did!! However, the author's attempt at writing did not agree with me. His overly verbose descriptions of clouds, his constant pseudonym use for his parents, and his pompous attitude did not agree with me. I am very disappointed as I am looking for a good book on the history of Cuba and this is the second book on the topic that just left me disappointed. (I recently discarded "Telex from Cuba," a fictional book written about the same period in Cuba's history. I wanted to like this book--I really did!! However, the author's attempt at writing did not agree with me. His overly verbose descriptions of clouds, his constant pseudonym use for his parents, and his pompous attitude did not agree with me. I am very disappointed as I am looking for a good book on the history of Cuba and this is the second book on the topic that just left me disappointed. (I recently discarded "Telex from Cuba," a fictional book written about the same period in Cuba's history. I will save my issues with that book for another review!) Eire's attempt in writing from the viewpoint of a ten-year old seems rather forced. It isn't until the second half of the memoir that Eire becomes a bit more comfortable with his ambitious writing style. The story flowed much better. By this point, he is better able to capture his naivete about Fidel's takeover. Although I never really connected with the narrator, I find myself interested in the history of Cuba and the events surrounding the Communist takeover as well as the dashed hopes of so many Cubans who thought Fidel would be the savior of their country. If anyone knows of a better book dealing with this topic, please let me know!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    My ambivalence about this book, I think, comes from my personal empathic paradox. On one hand, I try very hard to understand the pain a little boy thrust from his parents and country feels. On the other hand, I have an empathic failure when I try to feel sorrow for a privileged rich kid whose privilege and fortune didn't last. Eire's memoir, while nicely written, suffers from heavy-handed judgments that aren't clearly delineated between Eire's interchanging personas of backwards-looking adult My ambivalence about this book, I think, comes from my personal empathic paradox. On one hand, I try very hard to understand the pain a little boy thrust from his parents and country feels. On the other hand, I have an empathic failure when I try to feel sorrow for a privileged rich kid whose privilege and fortune didn't last. Eire's memoir, while nicely written, suffers from heavy-handed judgments that aren't clearly delineated between Eire's interchanging personas of backwards-looking adult and outward-looking child. He probably meant to tread on both sides of that line with his expressions of hate and frustration as a means of representing the indelible impact that his childhood has had on his adult life, but I guess I expect something more critical and sophisticated from a Yale professor. In other words, let's not pretend all Cubans hate Fidel and most of them were ok with Batista. Or that all the grungy kids who took over Eire's neighbors' houses were simple pawns in the hands of the Maximum Leader. However, at the same time inferences like those infuriated me, I was captive to Eire's brutal honesty. Hence the three-star (I don't know what to think) rating.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tress

    I really don't care for this star rating system. It seems so inappropriate, like we're reviewing refrigerators or something. I don't really know how to "rate" this book. It was herky jerky, sometimes interesting but sometimes a yawn, and I never could tell at what moment that transition would occur next. Which, to me, made it a great read. But the sections that were boring, were really boring. Mostly those were the idyllic childhood sections: the anecdotes from his pampered, rich kid experience I really don't care for this star rating system. It seems so inappropriate, like we're reviewing refrigerators or something. I don't really know how to "rate" this book. It was herky jerky, sometimes interesting but sometimes a yawn, and I never could tell at what moment that transition would occur next. Which, to me, made it a great read. But the sections that were boring, were really boring. Mostly those were the idyllic childhood sections: the anecdotes from his pampered, rich kid experience before everything changed so drastically. The changes were not only drastic but terrifying. And all encompassing. It's interesting to think about as it has now been over fifty years since the Revolution that these people believed wouldn't last more than a year or two. I would recommend this book to anyone who really doesn't know much about the Cuban Revolution. It isn't going to give you a history lesson so much as an up close perspective on how violent an effect political upheaval can have on the individual level.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Vaughan

    This book received a National Book Award and it appears I missed something crucial because I wouldn't have given it even one of those fake paper ribbon awards you get in elementary school for lining up single file for recess. IMHO they tried to do too much with this story. What I thought I was getting was a coherent recount of a Cuban boy's experience being exiled to the US after Castro takes over. What I got was a confusing tale of a Cuban boy, a French King, his unknowing wife, a criminal This book received a National Book Award and it appears I missed something crucial because I wouldn't have given it even one of those fake paper ribbon awards you get in elementary school for lining up single file for recess. IMHO they tried to do too much with this story. What I thought I was getting was a coherent recount of a Cuban boy's experience being exiled to the US after Castro takes over. What I got was a confusing tale of a Cuban boy, a French King, his unknowing wife, a criminal adoptee, an army of frightful lizards and a serious case of whiplash from being transported from one decade and location to the next without fair warning. The book was confusing and, frankly, a little boring. I ended up caring so little about the struggle and situation that I stopped reading (or rather fighting to stay interested) 20 pages before the ending. Fact was, I didn't care how it ended, I just wanted it to be over. I gave it two stars because it appears SOMEONE must have liked it and, well, maybe they can explain what the hell was going on there.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    Incomplete, I've closed the book. I think it's important to read about cultures, heritages, life experiences, nations and societies different than our own. It gives us opportunity to learn and empathise, be connected with all of humanity on a grander scale. However, I cannot abide the Lord's name blasphemed, repetitively and flippantly. It breaks my heart beyond compare. That is the reason I relinquish reading this book to completion. Unfinished, unrated.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Corinne Edwards

    I found this on the shelf at the thrift store. I picked it up because my new brother in law is Cuban, having left Cuba as a child. So when I saw Havana on the spine - I paid my eighty cents, hoping to satiate some of my new curiosity in all things Cuban. Of course, Carlos lived in Cuba long before my brother in law. Carlos was a child who knew Cuba before Fidel, before the Revolution, which makes his story that much harder to read. He knew what he was loosing, having grown up in a very privileged I found this on the shelf at the thrift store. I picked it up because my new brother in law is Cuban, having left Cuba as a child. So when I saw Havana on the spine - I paid my eighty cents, hoping to satiate some of my new curiosity in all things Cuban. Of course, Carlos lived in Cuba long before my brother in law. Carlos was a child who knew Cuba before Fidel, before the Revolution, which makes his story that much harder to read. He knew what he was loosing, having grown up in a very privileged family. We go back in time to his very earliest memories - birthday parties he attended, worshiping at mass with his parents, watching movies at the theater. When the Revolution made life in Cuba a nightmare, thousands of parents shipped their children to the States, planning to follow them as soon as possible. It just didn't work out that way. And so Carlos ends up in Miami without his parents, and that initial journey, that breathtaking leap, is just the beginning of his life as an immigrant, an exile. Your heart cannot help but ache for this boy and what he lost. The writing is at times so exquisite, you feel like you are drowning in his memories. The sights and smells, the adventures that would delight and astonish a young boy. I feel like I KNOW that Cuba - the one that was full of life and culture, religion and a sense of Spanish grandeur, that then faded into a farce, a twisted promise of freedom that dealt out only shackles and rations. There are painful things to read - even without the Revolution, there are parts of Carlos's life that were traumatic. And it read surprisingly slowly for me - for some reason I could only read it in smaller doses at a time, I can't put my finger on why, but it's what leans me to 4 stars instead of 5. I did love when he tied in his own experiences with typical Cuban culture and I really liked the history woven in, since I knew, apparently, absolutely nothing except its general location and the name Castro. Cuba was a COLONY? I had no idea (I should probably be embarrassed to admit that). I was surprised by how Christian it was, Jesus feels like a character in the book, Carlos discusses him so much (and for those who are sensitive to it, it's not always in the most respectful way). The subtitle really does fit - it does feel like a book of confessions: mistakes he made, that his family members made, that his countrymen made and that frankly, the mistakes made by the Americans who greeted him once he got here. With poetic prose and a knack for creating an amazing scene in your head, he sorted through all that STUFF until he found himself at the other end. I'm not surprised it won the National Book Award back in 2003 - Waiting for Snow in Havana transports you and moves you.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan (aka Just My Op)

    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 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This book won an award? This book is 385 pages too long. If you are looking to learn about what it was like to live at the time of revolution and transition in Cuba as I was, this is not the book for you. Have you ever been in a conversation you're trying to get out of because the subject matter doesn't concern you and is completely uninteresting? Prepare for 385 pages of that. Prepare to learn in great detail where the author obtained his comic books or what flavor of ice cream he preferred. This book won an award? This book is 385 pages too long. If you are looking to learn about what it was like to live at the time of revolution and transition in Cuba as I was, this is not the book for you. Have you ever been in a conversation you're trying to get out of because the subject matter doesn't concern you and is completely uninteresting? Prepare for 385 pages of that. Prepare to learn in great detail where the author obtained his comic books or what flavor of ice cream he preferred. There are not paragraphs on these topics. There are pages and, in some instances, chapters. I read the first chapter and thought "wow this book is going to be great". Little did I know it wasn't the author setting the tone. The whole book would be the author describing in great detail the details of his life that were completely uninteresting probably even to his spouse, much less the general public. I'm sure he had an interesting life. I'm sure he has stories to tell that would enlighten us all. These are the stories that he alludes to for the entire book but never describes. Another reviewer said this book was like being stuck in a waiting room with a 10 year old. That analogy is perfect. I'm throwing this book away so that no one makes the same mistake I did. Amateur hour...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth K.

    Another memoir, this one by a history professor at Yale who recounts his boyhood years in Cuba during the revolution. Being obsessed with Cuba myself, I found all the details about life among the privileged set of great interest. It was a little heavy-handed, I'm afraid. I would have preferred this one if he let the anecdotes stand on their own, but he seemed unable to resist underscoring all sorts of points that are very obvious. Little boys like to play with firecrackers, and then the bombs in Another memoir, this one by a history professor at Yale who recounts his boyhood years in Cuba during the revolution. Being obsessed with Cuba myself, I found all the details about life among the privileged set of great interest. It was a little heavy-handed, I'm afraid. I would have preferred this one if he let the anecdotes stand on their own, but he seemed unable to resist underscoring all sorts of points that are very obvious. Little boys like to play with firecrackers, and then the bombs in Havana sound like firecrackers, thus the little boy thinks the bombings are adventurous and exciting. Am I wrong, or does that right there convey everything you need to know? We get the scene, we get the irony, we know what happened in Cuba, we know little kids put their own spin on things, and we know when adults look back on it, it seems surreal and discordant. But he goes on and on ... it's a little bit of a pastiche of great Cuban literature -- he talks directly to the reader in the second person and it all gets very overwrought. Let's leave that for Cabrera Infante. Grade: B+ Recommended: Fairly enjoyable light reading, feel free to skim. Especially interesting to avid fans of Cuban history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Interesting structure to this book, reads like a bunch of short stories written in a conversational tone--which could be a good or bad thing depending on the reader, because the book doesn't follow a chronological order. Carlos Eire was born in Cuba and grew up during Fidel Castro's reign. He and his brother joined thousands of Cuban orphans sent to the U.S. His mother joined him later and his father, a judge in Cuba, made a decision not to join Carlos and his brother (something the narrator Interesting structure to this book, reads like a bunch of short stories written in a conversational tone--which could be a good or bad thing depending on the reader, because the book doesn't follow a chronological order. Carlos Eire was born in Cuba and grew up during Fidel Castro's reign. He and his brother joined thousands of Cuban orphans sent to the U.S. His mother joined him later and his father, a judge in Cuba, made a decision not to join Carlos and his brother (something the narrator resents, you can tell). Instead, his father adopts a son who resents his family and destroys his marriage. This is Eire's story of being a boy in pre-Castro-Cuba, an interesting angle as he gives his perspective of what life was for young Cuban boys like him. The book is poetic in places, humorous, and when discussing difficult details like abuse for instance, Eire does so in an artistic manner--definitely nothing straightforward about it. There were some interesting parts that I wanted to see more of: like more details of his cousin, Fernando, for instance, who was one of the rebels trying to remove the regime. And perhaps more details about the war and changes that took place in Cuba.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Eire is a smug and arrogant narrator. I had no sympathy for or interest in him as a child or as a young adult and found much of the faux-poetic descriptions pretentious, except for the lizards. (Do publishers no longer fact check. RCA, Artur Rubinstein's exclusive record label, put out many Rubinstein compilations - but none entitled "President Eisenhower's Favorite Piano Pieces." Writers may misremember or fabricate out of creative license, but the obvious ought to be caught). If Eire weren't Eire is a smug and arrogant narrator. I had no sympathy for or interest in him as a child or as a young adult and found much of the faux-poetic descriptions pretentious, except for the lizards. (Do publishers no longer fact check. RCA, Artur Rubinstein's exclusive record label, put out many Rubinstein compilations - but none entitled "President Eisenhower's Favorite Piano Pieces." Writers may misremember or fabricate out of creative license, but the obvious ought to be caught). If Eire weren't an academic at an Ivy institution, would he have gotten so much praise?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Hess

    This book was chosen by a local book club, and I love to read cross-cultural stories, so I wait-listed it, missed the book club meeting, and finally got the book. Kind of wish the library had lost it. Maybe if I were male, I would appreciate the book a lot more. The bulk of the book is spent on the author's 8th to 10th years in Havana as a rich, spoiled, and pretty rambunctious boy. He got off on having battles with breadfruit and stones and peashooters, all five boys shooting for the bottom of This book was chosen by a local book club, and I love to read cross-cultural stories, so I wait-listed it, missed the book club meeting, and finally got the book. Kind of wish the library had lost it. Maybe if I were male, I would appreciate the book a lot more. The bulk of the book is spent on the author's 8th to 10th years in Havana as a rich, spoiled, and pretty rambunctious boy. He got off on having battles with breadfruit and stones and peashooters, all five boys shooting for the bottom of an over-endowed woman at the same time. There were stitches involved, and clean-ups of rotting fruit and apologies. Meanwhile, there is a revolution going on around them and a couple of firefights they have to run from, and it is all in great fun, because gunpowder was fun, and it was even kind of ok when large fireworks exploded in their hands. Another trip to the hospital. Where were their parents when all this was going on? Hiding, I think, or trying to get visas out of the country, or collecting fine arts that would never produce any value for the family. There were a few glimpses of interest. School. Church. Pedophiles. A sense of loss and detachment when sent off on a plane with ones' older brother, only to be separated in Miami to camps of Cuban children of different ages. And midway through the book, another glimpse of the family (as much as was willing to leave Cuba) being reunited 3.5 years later, and both boys having to work to support their mother. At ages 15 and 17. Although the book was well written, the timeline was kind of bouncy in a bad way. I rarely knew when I was in the book. again, if I were male, I might have enjoyed the escapades of these boys more, but the book didn't do much for me. I finished it because I kept hoping for a conclusion. I didn't get it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I've been putting off writing this review because I've been unable to decide how many stars this book should get: 4 or 5. Well, Internet, the wait is over. I figured if I was this torn, why not give it the benefit of the doubt and go with the higher rating, so 5 it is. There were multiple occasions in this book when I laughed so hard I cried - Eire does an absolutely magnificent job of reliving his upper-class Cuban childhood, to the point that I kind of want to ditch mine and have his instead I've been putting off writing this review because I've been unable to decide how many stars this book should get: 4 or 5. Well, Internet, the wait is over. I figured if I was this torn, why not give it the benefit of the doubt and go with the higher rating, so 5 it is. There were multiple occasions in this book when I laughed so hard I cried - Eire does an absolutely magnificent job of reliving his upper-class Cuban childhood, to the point that I kind of want to ditch mine and have his instead (and I enjoyed my childhood!). The writing brought pre-Revoluion Cuba alive, and Eire writes with a passionate, one-of-a-kind voice. It's almost like sitting on the porch with him while he regales you with family stories. Another thing that this book accomplished: I think I finally understand the Fidel Hate. Don't get me wrong - I think that through history classes and an American bent on news, I was thoroughly taught idea of "Fidel Castro: Bad Dude," but man, after reading this book, I really want to strangle the guy. What he did to that island seems absolutely unforgivable. I've read that Eire will be writing a follow-up to this book about adjusting to life in America as a Cuban orphan from the Pedro Pan airlifts. Though he touched on this and other difficult matters in Waiting for Snow in Havana, I look forward to reading it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    I normally don't enjoy memoirs, but I could not put this book down. I think a lot of my attraction was based on a recent trip to Cuba, and wanting to know more of the pre-Fidel era. This memoir, really a love story to the old Cuba, was beautifully written with vivid childhood memories of a wonderful home. Several passages spoke to me, but one in particular stands out: "But Havana was not the United States. That was the beauty of it, and the horror. So much freedom, so little freedom. Freedom to I normally don't enjoy memoirs, but I could not put this book down. I think a lot of my attraction was based on a recent trip to Cuba, and wanting to know more of the pre-Fidel era. This memoir, really a love story to the old Cuba, was beautifully written with vivid childhood memories of a wonderful home. Several passages spoke to me, but one in particular stands out: "But Havana was not the United States. That was the beauty of it, and the horror. So much freedom, so little freedom. Freedom to be reckless, but no genuine freedoms from woe. Plenty of trills, and an over abundance of risks, large and small. But so little margin for error, and so few safety nets. For the poor, opportunity knocked loudest in the lottery and the numbers racket. For anyone who wasn't poor, life could be beautiful, even if all was balanced on a razor's edge. As beautiful as a giant turquoise wave poised right above your head."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    While reading this book, I realized that the neighborhood Carlos was taking about in Havana was mine, Miramar. I could not wait until the end of the book to track him down. A quick Google search found him teaching at Yale. I told him where I had lived and asked how close had his house been. He answered right back and it turns out he lived across Fifth Avenue from me and we played in the giant ficus trees on opposite ends of the same park! As much as I enjoyed the book, for obvious reasons, the While reading this book, I realized that the neighborhood Carlos was taking about in Havana was mine, Miramar. I could not wait until the end of the book to track him down. A quick Google search found him teaching at Yale. I told him where I had lived and asked how close had his house been. He answered right back and it turns out he lived across Fifth Avenue from me and we played in the giant ficus trees on opposite ends of the same park! As much as I enjoyed the book, for obvious reasons, the last part in the U.S. was disappointing. Like all of us exiled children suddenly translocated into alternate lives, he changed by necessity. The careless, pampered Cuban boy had to morph quickly into a self-reliant, distanced American man. As Carlos so aptly put it in this book, December 26, 1960 was for me the day the world changed.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    My father was nine when he came to the US from Cuba - a bit too young for the vivid memories and images in 'Waiting for snow...' Glad to be able to experience the country of his birth through this book

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dana Booth

    Very well written. Just didn't do much for me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Million

    Early on, about 50 pages into this, I really did not care for this book. However, I am loathe to quit a book once I start it, usually holding out hope that it improves/I start liking it later. Fortunately, Carlos Eire's memoir about spending the first eleven years of his life in Cuba did get better, but overall I still did not enjoy reading it. Why? I struggled with his writing style. Especially early in the book, he bounced around from one topic to a completely different one each time he Early on, about 50 pages into this, I really did not care for this book. However, I am loathe to quit a book once I start it, usually holding out hope that it improves/I start liking it later. Fortunately, Carlos Eire's memoir about spending the first eleven years of his life in Cuba did get better, but overall I still did not enjoy reading it. Why? I struggled with his writing style. Especially early in the book, he bounced around from one topic to a completely different one each time he started a new chapter. Only later did he adopt more of a chronological time frame. He also kept writing "Jesus H. {...} Christ". Many, many times. There were no curse words in it when he would do that; but it would be a different phrase each time and I found it very annoying. He also liked to write out various sounds that things such as gun fire made. Ostensibly, the book is about his early childhood in Cuba, with the black cloud of Fidel Castro and his revolution approaching. As the book goes on, this becomes a bigger part of it, especially once he is told that his mom is going to arrange for him to travel to the United States. At times he flashes forward to his time in Miami, then in Chicago, and then later in adulthood at other places in the U.S. For me, this added to the confusion of how the book was structured. But the further I got into the book, the more I realized that (I think) a big part of the reason he wrote this is due to lingering bitterness against his father, who is referenced as "Louis XVI". Apparently his dad believed in reincarnation and thought he had been King Louis XVI of France in a previous life. I could not quite get a read on whether that was a big joke or the guy really believed it. But what I did get clearly was that Eire felt abandoned by his dad after he refused to lift a finger to help he and his brother Tony escape Castro and his lunacy, refused to help Eire's handicapped mom as she tried to make the travel arrangements for the boys, refused to take the boys to the airport even on their last day in Havana, and perhaps what hurt the most was that he put his extensive collection of artifacts and antiques ahead of his children. Eire's last day in Cuba was the last day he saw his father. His father never left the island, never even tried to leave and immigrate to the U.S. as Eire's mother did. I don't blame Eire for his bitterness. I would be bitter too. I mean, how else can you interpret that, especially when you are a kid? That cannot be easy to deal with. What else was not easy for him to deal with was that, with his father being a judge, they had a fairly affluent lifestyle in Havana. That ended abruptly the day that he left for Miami. From that point forward, it was a real struggle. Imagine being sent to a foreign country, with almost no family (he and his brother were initially separated but did reunite and thankfully managed to stay together), not knowing the language, being subjected to racism (just another reminder of how ugly people can be in this country - I felt ashamed), and then being relocated up to Illinois, first to Bloomington and then to Chicago, so having to adjust to a totally different climate as well. Also throw in having to take care of his mother once she is finally able to get into the U.S., and then working full-time washing dishes at night while going to high school during the day. That is... rough. In the end, I felt bad for what happened to him, how his life essentially got wiped out (except for memories, which is what fills this book) and he had to start over at age 11 through no fault of his own. Eire also notes that Havana wasn't perfect (he was attacked by a pervert, for instance) but it was his life. Strangely, he says that his two and a half years spent in Bloomington were the happiest ones of his early life, but he does not explain why. Had he structured the book differently, and if he had a different writing style, I might have enjoyed it. As it is, this book is not one I will read again. Grade: C-

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bookguide

    I really enjoyed reading this book. It was full of local colour and the warmth of childhood recollection and nostalgia for a place and time that no longer exists. The childhood of Carlos Eire was a cross between unbelievable luxury, freedom to play wild and often cruel games with his friends and the usual unenjoyable restrictions of dressing up to visit. Fear entered the equation when his rich family became a target when the Cuban revolution started. Later, Carlos and his brother are evacuated I really enjoyed reading this book. It was full of local colour and the warmth of childhood recollection and nostalgia for a place and time that no longer exists. The childhood of Carlos Eire was a cross between unbelievable luxury, freedom to play wild and often cruel games with his friends and the usual unenjoyable restrictions of dressing up to visit. Fear entered the equation when his rich family became a target when the Cuban revolution started. Later, Carlos and his brother are evacuated to the United States, leaving their parents behind, split up and sent to the cold northernness of Chicago where they have to acclimatise not only to the temperatures but to the realities of poverty. The situations described are often almost unbelievable and surreal: "We were playing hide and seek. I had found a very nice spot behind the tiger's cage. The tiger who would later die of indigestion and a failed enema administered with a garden hose." The author was a sensitive and imaginative boy with a fine eye for observation. This shows in the descriptions in Eire's memoirs such as this description of the attraction of firecrackers: "BANG!... Good ones shake you to the core, sweep over all your senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste, even touch. Yes, touch too: a good blast can be felt all over one's body.... A flash of light, one of those rare moments when raw energy makes itself visible, the very stuff of life, blinding the eyes to all else.... A roar, deafening, that suddenly cancels out all other sound.... Wave upon wave of particles of the exploding object filling the air, fumes that fill your nose and cancel out all other scents, even those fo the sweetest flower..... Those same particles invading your tongue, vanquishing all other flavours, melding with your own spit... And those shock waves, the air itself just like the veil of the Temple of Jerusalem when Jesus died or the cross, the air pulsating with energy that seeps into your very skin, your pores, your nerves, and ultimately, your brain, making every other sensation vanish, making you say 'Yes, I live.' Sometimes the shock waves bombarding your skin force you to say 'God'." I also enjoyed the descriptions of the childhood parties, Cuban pinatas, American games, American costumes, 'keiks', Japy berrsdéy tú yu. Later, the tale of the party that changed his life because his attendance marked him out as one of the elite who would be the enemies of the revolution. Throughout his childhood, there was a competition in his family home between clinging to Spanish traditions and the American traditions that were gradually swamping them. "At Christmastime, you see, a silent battle raged.... Santa bought the best presents. And the Christmas tree: no contest. That tree was divine...... The lights and houses of Bethlehem, so lovingly created by my dad, were no match for the lights on that tree, or for the ornaments." The story of how he left Cuba is told gradually. Poignantly and childishly, he still regrets abandoning his collection of red firecracker wrappers, not to mention his family, his home and his other possessions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    The world changed while I slept, and much to my surprise, no one had consulted me. That's how it would always be from that day forward. Of course, that's the way it had been all along, I just didn't know it until that morning. Surprise upon surprise: some good, some evil, most somewhere in between. And always without my consent. I was barely eight years old, and I had spent hours dreaming of childish things, as children do. My father, who vividly remembered his prior life as King Louis XVI of The world changed while I slept, and much to my surprise, no one had consulted me. That's how it would always be from that day forward. Of course, that's the way it had been all along, I just didn't know it until that morning. Surprise upon surprise: some good, some evil, most somewhere in between. And always without my consent. I was barely eight years old, and I had spent hours dreaming of childish things, as children do. My father, who vividly remembered his prior life as King Louis XVI of France, probably dreamt of costume balls, mobs, and guillotines. My mother, who had no memory of having been Marie Antoinette, couldn't have shared in his dreams. Maybe she dreamt of hibiscus blossoms and fine silk. Maybe she dreamt of angels, as she always encouraged me to do. "Suena con los angelitos," she would say: dream of little angels. The fact that they were little meant that they were too cute to be fallen angels. Devils can never be cute. So beginsWaiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire. I loved this book. It was smart, funny, sad, disturbing: everything you would expect of a memoir by a man who fled Cuba as a child, after the revolution turned his family's world upside down, but much more. Eire is a talented, insightful writer. Eire had a front seat for the major transformational moment of his country's history, but he viewed it with a child's eyes, which makes for interesting contrasts in the narrative. His adult self can look back with an understanding of the horrors that were occurring, while his child self enjoyed the excitement of living through things that seemed like movies he loved watching. The book is marvelous because it is a historical account, but also quirkily personal, and the language is brilliantly crafted, with themes and small vignettes echoing backward and forward throughout the tale to maximum effect. We see the life of upper-class pre-revolutionary Cuba, we see the family dramas that unfold in any household, we see the increasing fear that spreads as guns and arrests and neighbors who spy and executions become the norm, replacing warnings about mysterious sins by Catholic priest teachers and breadfruit wars and the theft of toy soldiers when a parent's back is turned and American movies. We learn of the shock of moving to a new country where one is suddenly poor, friendless, and a despised minority. Eire has a marvelous resilience, and a slightly cynical rapier wit. I can't wait to read the follow-up Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ti

    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 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.

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