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Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia's story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. DREAMING IN CUBAN presents a Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia's story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. DREAMING IN CUBAN presents a unique vision and a haunting lamentation for a past that might have been.


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Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia's story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. DREAMING IN CUBAN presents a Here is the dreamy and bittersweet story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution. It is the family story of Celia del Pino, and her husband, daughter and grandchildren, from the mid-1930s to 1980. Celia's story mirrors the magical realism of Cuba itself, a country of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption. DREAMING IN CUBAN presents a unique vision and a haunting lamentation for a past that might have been.

30 review for Dreaming in Cuban

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    I have been reading magical realism for over twenty years when I first discovered Latin American women writers such as Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, and Cristina García. As I have read and reread their books over the years, I have garnered an appreciation for the genre that flows so well through their culture. Beginning with One Hundred Years of Solitude fifty years ago, magical realism inserted into novels includes scenes such as blood flowing down the street, conversing with the spirits at a I have been reading magical realism for over twenty years when I first discovered Latin American women writers such as Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, and Cristina García. As I have read and reread their books over the years, I have garnered an appreciation for the genre that flows so well through their culture. Beginning with One Hundred Years of Solitude fifty years ago, magical realism inserted into novels includes scenes such as blood flowing down the street, conversing with the spirits at a three-legged table, and the ashen remains of a man blowing north. I had not read Dreaming in Cuban for nearly twenty years and my memories of this sensuous novel had faded, so, when I noticed a paperback copy on my parents' bookshelf, I decided to reintroduce myself to Cristina García's writing. Prior to Castro's revolution, Cuba, Havana especially, rivaled Miami as a steamy vacation hotspot gateway to Latin America. In the 1930s Celia del Pino falls for a Spanish guitarist named Gustavo who had come to Cuba to visit. Although married, he promises Celia that he would leave his wife and children should she decide to follow him to Spain; yet, Franco took over the Iberian Peninsula and the state of Cuban affairs deteriorated with the start of the worldwide depression, and Celia's dreams never materialized. She ended up choosing the easy road and married Jorge del Pino, who would father her three children: Lourdes, Felicia, and Javier; however, her love for Gustavo never wavered, and on the eleventh of each month, Celia continued to write him a love letter for the next twenty five years. As a result, it easily became apparent that she did not demonstrate love for her children fathered by a man other than Gustavo, and her relationships with them faltered long before they reached adulthood. Garcia tells this story from many points of view including Celia, Lourdes, Felicia, and their children Pilar and Ivanito. Although a story of unfulfilled love, the novel centers around the 1959 revolution and how each member of the family copes with it. Celia and her husband Jorge chose to remain in Cuba close to the sea because a Santera predicted that that is where she should live out her days. Felicia and her family stayed behind as well, yet, her children ended up in boarding school as their mother suffered from mental blackouts and could not properly care for them. Lourdes as a result of her mother not loving her as a child fled to New York immediately and became the proprietress of the Yankee Doodle Bakery, a proud American and embarrassed when she saw a Cuban voicing their support of Castro. As the oldest grandchild, Pilar would have rather stayed behind in Cuba and ends up rebelling against her mother in similar ways that Lourdes acted out against Celia. The family's history ended up cyclical in nature, as all roads lead back to Cuba by the sea. I am used to magical realism saturating the writing of Latina writers. While this novel contains elements, it is not contained throughout. Some instances include Lourdes communicating with her father Jorge long after his death, which I found touching, and Felicia turning an ex-husband into ashes with no recollections of her own. The magical realism here is mainly in the form of the African Santeria religion found in Cuba, that Felicia was attracted to from the time she was a girl. The rest of the family found her to be crazy, but I thought that Felicia brought some character to the Cuban branch of the family, especially when her diet consisted solely of coconut ice cream and plantains. Later, Pilar, who chose to be a painter, found Santeria attractive, and chose to follow some of its basic tenets as well. While not as obvious as magical realism found in other books that I have read, I did enjoy how magic brought this sometimes crazy family together during trying times. Like Allende, Garcia's writing features strong female protagonists in a machismo culture in the forms of Lourdes, Felicia, Pilar, and to a certain extent Celia. All the women of the del Pino family exhibited strength even if they were said to be crazy by outsiders. Reading a novel containing high levels of magical realism is always a joy for me, as I read fast to see what magic the author decides to employ next. Dreaming in Cuban has been a fun journey through 20th century Cuba, and I hope to read another of Garcia's books King of Cuba, which is said to feature both magical realism and cameo appearances by both members of the del Pino family and key figures in 20th century Latino culture. As summer starts to wind down, rereading a favorite book of the magical realism genre is always a thrill as I rate Dreaming in Cuban 4 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ryl

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is not just misery porn. It's feminist postcolonial multicultural misery porn which is somehow supposed to be better. But it isn't. It's just women being miserable because they won't get off their asses and do something about it. Pilar, the youngest woman followed in the novel, is supposed to be the hope of the future, but she's just as bad as all the rest. All of her references to the late 70's punk scene in New York start to sound a bit too researched after a while. She name-drops all the This is not just misery porn. It's feminist postcolonial multicultural misery porn which is somehow supposed to be better. But it isn't. It's just women being miserable because they won't get off their asses and do something about it. Pilar, the youngest woman followed in the novel, is supposed to be the hope of the future, but she's just as bad as all the rest. All of her references to the late 70's punk scene in New York start to sound a bit too researched after a while. She name-drops all the big bands: Lou Reed, The Ramones, Sex Pistols. Apparently Pilar never went to listen to a real underground band that never signed to a major record label. Oh, and she totally painted a picture that referenced the cover of Sex Pistol's "God Save the Queen" album cover a year before the album came out. What. The hell. Ever. I liked Felicia a bit more, but I get the feeling that she was crazy simply because Great Literature requires a woman being driven crazy by her sexual desires that nice women don't have. García at first tries to blame this on syphilis, but then at the end Felicia dies of a mysterious unnamed illness that is quite clearly AIDS. Actually, what happens is that Felicia becomes Angel from Rent except she doesn't come back at the end and make it all better. Once she escaped from the book she stayed gone and good for her. Lourdes is the only one who actually did have terrible things outside of her control happen to her, all it does is turn her into an evil bitch. Eventually she becomes a caricature merely to torment Pilar who can do no wrong because she's just, like, confused, man. Also Lourdes is fat, which is a horrible, horrible character flaw because fat women are gross. Again I say: What. The hell. Ever. Celia might have been interesting if she had had any character development, but alas such was not the case. In the end she decided to follow her daughter Felicia's example and drown herself at the end of the novel. Again I say: Good for her. Oh, and in case you missed the brickbat hitting you over the head, all men are evil and the source of all evil. Thank you and good night.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jalilah

    What a delight to not only find an author who I'd never read before, but discover that she has many more books for me to read! I can’t believe I never knew about her works before! I feel like I uncovered a treasure chest, a rich lush story that was so captivating that once I finished, I immediately reread it. And the best part, I read it while on vacation in Cuba! The story follows the lives of 4 women; the grandmother who still lives in Cuba and believes in the revolution, her 2 daughters, one What a delight to not only find an author who I'd never read before, but discover that she has many more books for me to read! I can’t believe I never knew about her works before! I feel like I uncovered a treasure chest, a rich lush story that was so captivating that once I finished, I immediately reread it. And the best part, I read it while on vacation in Cuba! The story follows the lives of 4 women; the grandmother who still lives in Cuba and believes in the revolution, her 2 daughters, one who stays in Cuba and is involved in the Santera religion and the other who moved to New York, as well as her granddaughter, a rebellious teenager into abstract painting and punk rock Although I enjoy many genre of literature, and the past 2 years I’ve discovered contemporary fantasy, Magical realism is still will always be my favourite.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    I've long been fascinated by Cuba. The country has a rich history with a very beautiful landscape. When I saw that this book was a must read for anyone interested in Cuba or Cuban history I absolutely knew I had to pick it up. In all honesty I was just downright dissapointed. While Garcia's writing style isn't horrible, it is still far from great in my opinion. The sentence structure is choppy and I could tell the author had trouble conveying any coherent idea. Most of the sentences in my opinion I've long been fascinated by Cuba. The country has a rich history with a very beautiful landscape. When I saw that this book was a must read for anyone interested in Cuba or Cuban history I absolutely knew I had to pick it up. In all honesty I was just downright dissapointed. While Garcia's writing style isn't horrible, it is still far from great in my opinion. The sentence structure is choppy and I could tell the author had trouble conveying any coherent idea. Most of the sentences in my opinion were so full of fluff and unnecessary wording. I actually wonder how any publisher could approve of this. The story alternates from the perspective of several people in a large Cuban family. When an author has so many characters, it is their duty to give each character a unique voice so the reader can differentiate them. Garcia did not do this. At all. I had to flip back and forth several times just to remember who was speaking. A woman in her 70s should not have the same voice as a teenage boy. (Side note: I've read various interviews with different authors and many of them state how they really had to work hard in order to do this so I know it can be done.) Finally, the characters themselves are just so unlikable. Few of them have any redeeming qualities and because of this I just didn't care what happened to them. So, between the horrible sentence structure, the lack of distinct voices and awful characters. Just leave this one on the shelf.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    True to the title, this book is definitely Cuban and dreamy. The story follows three generations of Cuban women, jumping forward and backward in time, hopping back and forth between Cuba and New York, and switching between a variety of narrative styles (i.e. third person, first person, and epistolary). This variety in time, location, style and person contributes to the dreamy ambiance, but for me it was a bit nightmarish. The human and family relationships in this story all seem afflicted with True to the title, this book is definitely Cuban and dreamy. The story follows three generations of Cuban women, jumping forward and backward in time, hopping back and forth between Cuba and New York, and switching between a variety of narrative styles (i.e. third person, first person, and epistolary). This variety in time, location, style and person contributes to the dreamy ambiance, but for me it was a bit nightmarish. The human and family relationships in this story all seem afflicted with various strains caused by disease, mental illness, obsession, repression, hysteria ... etc. There's just too much dysfunctional family behavior, poor life choices and emotional unhappiness in this book for me. There's not a single romantic relationship in this book that is healthy and supportive. All through the book I kept telling myself that if it doesn't have a coherent ending that wraps things up in a reasonable manner I'm going to give it a rating of one star. Well as it turns out that it did have a pretty good ending, so I'm giving it two stars. Actually, the last 20% of the book deserves five stars, but with the other 80% at one star the book averages out at two stars. I experienced this book as an example of creative/experimental/MFA writing that went overboard to no purpose other than to show off writing skills and confuse the reader. It's the sort of book that gets assigned to modern literature classes in order to torment the students. However, upon finishing this book I see the completed story as a sad tragedy. (view spoiler)[In the end a grandchild who has grown up in New York visits her grandmother for the first time in twenty years (she was a baby when she left). Then together with her mother they connive to arrange for another grandchild who has grown up in Cuba to leave the country for the USA. Consequently, the grandmother is left alone in Cuba with no remaining children or grandchildren. Sad! (hide spoiler)] It's a story of dysfunctional relationships made worse by the political separations caused by the isolation of Communist Cuba from the USA. There are elements of Santería that appear throughout the novel. The following quotation has special poignancy for me: "Women who outlive their daughters are orphans, ... Only their granddaughters can save them, guard their knowledge like the first fire." The following is a Wikipedia article about this book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreaming... I found the Wikipedia article helpful in keeping characters straight. An example of another book about three generations of women is A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Doris. In that book there is an "ah ha!" ending that provides an explanation of how and why craziness got passed from generation to generation.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Claire McAlpine

    Set against the background of the Cuban Revolution, Cristina García's Dreaming in Cuban is a story that spans three generations of women in the del Pino/Almeida family, highlighting the things that tie them together and those which push them apart. The book opens with a vision of a man walking across water, a vision seen through a pair of binoculars, by Celia, the matriarchal grandmother. The man she sees is her ailing husband, Jorge del Pino who left for the United States four years earlier to Set against the background of the Cuban Revolution, Cristina García's Dreaming in Cuban is a story that spans three generations of women in the del Pino/Almeida family, highlighting the things that tie them together and those which push them apart. The book opens with a vision of a man walking across water, a vision seen through a pair of binoculars, by Celia, the matriarchal grandmother. The man she sees is her ailing husband, Jorge del Pino who left for the United States four years earlier to seek medical attention. Observing the apparition, she understands that he has passed on. Her daughter Lourdes from whom she is estranged and her granddaughter Pilar, with whom she communicates through a kind of telepathic relationship, live in America. Celia is pro the Castro regime while Lourdes abhors it. On opposite sides of the revolutionary fence, neither will budge in their views or actions, despite the consequent rupture in their relationship and the knock on effect it has for others in the family, forced to take sides. Pilar understands her grandmother and hates that the mother and daughter's political beliefs prevent her from being closer to either of them. She rebels herself without knowing against what exactly, manifesting her discomfort with the world through impassioned artworks that initially disturb her mother and inspire harsh criticism, but which will eventually bring them closer together. The past is also invoked through a series of letters written by Celia to Gustavo, the man she first loved, who it is revealed is the not the man she married. Though none of these letters were ever sent, they continue to be written over the years, a place where Celia shares her innermost thoughts, desires and regrets. Her second daughter Felicia never leaves Cuba, marries, has children and at a certain point becomes somewhat deranged, remarrying twice in quick succession, attracting tragedy from the moment of her second marriage. She becomes deluded, seeks refuge in music and the Afro-Cuban cult of Santeria, becomes a priestess and loses herself completely. Similarly to Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory, Cristina García explores themes of separation and identity, exile, the survival strategies of women and mother's and the long threads of cultural connection that continue to exist despite the miles that come to separate those who embrace them. In literature, it tends to be referred to as magical realism, that occasional departure from the firm reality we are sure of, however it seems almost too easy to dismiss it as a literary device and ignore the connections between and within certain cultural traditions, where this ethereal communication between the living and the dead, those present and those who are not, exists alongside the more mundane communication we all indulge in. I have noticed this tendency occurring in my recent reading of Jamaica Kincaid's The Autobiography of My Mother, Maryse Condé's Victoire Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory and Cristina García's work, writers from Antigua, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Cuba respectively and find it adds something essential and attractive to the narrative. A brilliant addition to a growing collection of literature from this region, in a style I adore. A 5 star read for me. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Raquel

    Read this once before years ago. I forgot the plot entirely but I remember disliking it immensely. I decided to give it another go. I'm slogging through it and disliking it immensely all over again. Do not know if I can make myself finish.... but I have a real problem leaving books unfinished! I dislike every single character in the book and am having problems caring what happens to them. The disjointed style and absolute darkness of the story make it seem more like a nightmare than a dream. I Read this once before years ago. I forgot the plot entirely but I remember disliking it immensely. I decided to give it another go. I'm slogging through it and disliking it immensely all over again. Do not know if I can make myself finish.... but I have a real problem leaving books unfinished! I dislike every single character in the book and am having problems caring what happens to them. The disjointed style and absolute darkness of the story make it seem more like a nightmare than a dream. I feel like there is better literature out there about the Cuban diaspora that is not so all-encompassingly bleak. This book does not capture the spirit of joie de vivre that most Cubans have--a spirit that carries them through their darkest, most harrowing days and that allows them to live on despite the obstacles and hardships of life either on or off the island. The women in this book might be resilient, but they seem to have such a grudge against life that they do not seem Cuban at all. I also feel like a lot of the magical realism in the book is forced and feels out of place. **** UPDATE **** After completing the book, I feel a little less negatively toward it than I did the first time I read it. I still wasn't wild about it, but I enjoyed the ending of the book more than any of the rest of it. I actually enjoyed the ambiguous ending as well. The family story felt too scattered--it was difficult to see how each family member's story related to the other and there were so many narratives to keep track of that it was tedious--reading a book should feel effortless. You can encounter big thoughts but the words need to be rendered seamlessly so as to make you unaware of them. None of the characters really seemed to care about each other--even Pilar and her grandmother, Celia, who supposedly have some sort of mythic spiritual/psychic connection, seem barely connected. Their relationship was supposed to be very strong yet it was weakly rendered. Interestingly, what I most enjoyed about this book was a Q & A with the author at the end, where a lot of her sentiments about dealing with Cuban-American identity rang particularly true for me as a Cuban-American woman and writer. Perhaps she should write a book of essays about the subject, because she seems particularly eloquent as a nonfiction writer. Another huge problem I have with this book, that I am just realizing, is that it's a book about Cuba and being Cuban, and yet Cuba does not at all feel like a character in this book. It just seems like a background setting. There is little description of it and little sense of what it really means to be Cuban. Any exile will tell you that their country is like a part of them, yet the scant attention paid to the Island itself was disappointing. Would not recommend this book to readers looking for fiction on Cubans and Cuban-Americans, and will not re-read it a third time! Phew, two was enough.

  8. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    read during my AIG Years I Remember: a tale of a family during the Cuban Revolution... a focus on the voices of women... epic in scope, intimate in perspective... wonderfully differentiated characters, you really get to understand them, all about them, well beyond the politics - although the politics are central... gorgeous prose... warm and humanistic and full of love & anger & death & life. must read this one again. i originally read this so that i could have something literary to read during my AIG Years I Remember: a tale of a family during the Cuban Revolution... a focus on the voices of women... epic in scope, intimate in perspective... wonderfully differentiated characters, you really get to understand them, all about them, well beyond the politics - although the politics are central... gorgeous prose... warm and humanistic and full of love & anger & death & life. must read this one again. i originally read this so that i could have something literary to discuss with my very political roommate who worked at Global Exchange, an ardent feminist and a person who practically worshipped Cuba. turns out she scorned fiction and was only into non-fiction, so i ended up talking to myself about it. again. feh!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Natalia Sylvester

    In interviews I'm often asked what books shaped me the most, so I've decided to start a shelf where I write about the books that left an impact early in life. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia is the first that came to mind. I was in high school when I first heard of it, a freshman in English class. My teacher had photocopied the first chapter. It began: "Celia del Pino, equipped with binoculars and wearing her best housedress and drop pearl earrings, sits in her wicker swing guarding the north In interviews I'm often asked what books shaped me the most, so I've decided to start a shelf where I write about the books that left an impact early in life. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia is the first that came to mind. I was in high school when I first heard of it, a freshman in English class. My teacher had photocopied the first chapter. It began: "Celia del Pino, equipped with binoculars and wearing her best housedress and drop pearl earrings, sits in her wicker swing guarding the north coast of Cuba." That one line could carry so much—character, setting, ambience, suspense—is a testament to Garcia's incredible writing. And the name, Celia del Pino...I'd grown up in the Miami public school system and had gone this long (until 9th grade!) never having read book about Latinas, written by a Latina. This is a multi-generational story about the Cuban Revolution, portrayed through four women—mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers—who are all deeply connected through memory and their ties to Cuba, but separated by time, space, and life. At a sentence level, Garcia’s writing reads like poetry, with unexpected leaps of language that give the narrative a magical feel. But step back and she creates a world that juxtaposes the lost paradise of Cuba with the nostalgia-filled island that still lives in the hearts of those in exile. Years later, I revisited Dreaming in Cuban as a sophomore in college. I was majoring in Creative Writing with a concentration in poetry. I can still picture the moment I turned the last page of this novel. I was sitting in my bedroom, in my parents’ house, on an oversized couch in the corner of my room that served as a reading nook. Though I’d read the last lines, I couldn’t close the book. I wanted to stay in Garcia’s world a little longer. I wanted to keep spending time with the characters, and even the next day, and the next after that, I found myself missing them, hung over from the book's language and imagery. The next day, during my fiction class at the University of Miami, I told my professor that I’d be switching my concentration from poetry to fiction. She was thrilled, and when she asked why, I said, “I just finished reading a book that I didn’t want to end. I didn’t want to let go of the characters and the world. I want to do that someday.” She high-fived me. That's how I began writing fiction.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I am in awe of what Garcia can create with language. This is one of the most inventive books I have ever read. Unfortunately the structure was a little too inventive for me. The back and forth between characters, points of view and timeframes caused me to lose track and lose momentum for the story. She created so many bizarre characters and situations in glorious, precise detail that I wanted to spend more time with each of them but their vividness vanished when I turned the page to find another I am in awe of what Garcia can create with language. This is one of the most inventive books I have ever read. Unfortunately the structure was a little too inventive for me. The back and forth between characters, points of view and timeframes caused me to lose track and lose momentum for the story. She created so many bizarre characters and situations in glorious, precise detail that I wanted to spend more time with each of them but their vividness vanished when I turned the page to find another one waiting for me. But the color—both literal and figurative! There was an abundance of assaults, gruesome goat heads, a fantastic Ferris wheel accident, and for some reason, my favorite image was probably Jorge’s electric brooms swinging round and round in the air. It sounds funny, but it wasn’t. There was a sadness to the story—that special family kind of melancholy that comes from hopes and regrets and the never-ending tragedies that tie us together. “Until I returned to Cuba, I never realized how many blues exist.” Blues of all kinds.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I am reading this but feel 80% sure I've read it before. This is because I have either a.read it before or b. it is so very similar to her other book the Aguero Sisters. I will determine upon completion. ----- Upon completion I am still only 80% sure I've read this before. Perhaps I merely dreamed it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I had started this, but had been forced to put it aside before reading all of it. Now I have gone back to it. I love the lines. I enjoy the mixture of fact and fiction. The fictional aspect allows the author to play with the details, descriptions and words. The author is a poet with her words. Originally she had planned this to be a poem! I have returned right smack to the beginning. I probably would have forgotten parts, and I don't want to miss anything. This is too good a book for that. It is I had started this, but had been forced to put it aside before reading all of it. Now I have gone back to it. I love the lines. I enjoy the mixture of fact and fiction. The fictional aspect allows the author to play with the details, descriptions and words. The author is a poet with her words. Originally she had planned this to be a poem! I have returned right smack to the beginning. I probably would have forgotten parts, and I don't want to miss anything. This is too good a book for that. It is about the consequences of the Cuban Revolution, how it played out on its people. It is the story of a Cuban family, divided by politics and geography. This is a must read if you enjoy magical realism.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jamilla Rice

    Dreaming in Cuban was a gem. I am glad that I forgot to return it to the library. If it weren’t the last book that I had to return, I might never have read it. It reminds me a lot of Tan fiction: mothers and daughters lost in translation, with connections skipping generations. It’s also very lyrical and poetic, which would be pretty hard to escape considering the strong lyrical quality of the language. There was so much beauty, yet so much sadness. I suppose it was mostly about separation: the Dreaming in Cuban was a gem. I am glad that I forgot to return it to the library. If it weren’t the last book that I had to return, I might never have read it. It reminds me a lot of Tan fiction: mothers and daughters lost in translation, with connections skipping generations. It’s also very lyrical and poetic, which would be pretty hard to escape considering the strong lyrical quality of the language. There was so much beauty, yet so much sadness. I suppose it was mostly about separation: the physical separation/boundaries created between family members after the Cuban revolution and the emotional separation existing between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, etc. So many women living such mournful lives, unloved by those who they most wanted to love them, yet denying that same love, keeping it from the children that needed it in order to break the cycle of loneliness and desperation. It is a “must-read.” Favorite/Memorable Quotes: “Most of what I’ve learned that’s important I’ve learned on my own, or from my grandmother.” (28) “I’m not too tired so I stay up reading the neon signs off the highway. The missing letters make for weird messages. There’s a Shell station missing the “S.” -hell Open 24 Hours (31) “…their thoughts tumble together like gems in the polishing, reaching their hard conclusions.” (46) “The familiar is insistent and deadly.” (99) “believers can accomplish many things because the dead are benevolently inclined toward the living. On the other hand, nothing can be taken for granted because what the living desire will take great effort.” (147) “Maybe in the end the facts are not as important as the underlying truth she wants to convey. Telling her own truth is the truth to her, even if it’s at the expense of chipping away our past.” (177) “Everything up until this very minute, as I sit at my desk on the second floor of Barnard library, looking out over a rectangle of dead grass, and beyond that, to the cars racing down Broadway, feels like a preparation for something. For what, I don’t know. I’m still waiting for my life to begin.” (179) “For many years in Cuba, nobody spoke of the problem between blacks and whites. It was considered too disagreeable to discuss. But my father spoke to me clearly so that I would understand what happened to his father and his uncles during the Little War of 1912, so that I would know how our men were hunted down day and night like animals, and finally hung by their genitals from the lampposts in Guaimaro. The war that killed my grandfather and great-uncles and thousands of other blacks is only a footnote in our history books. Why, then, should I trust anything I read? I trust only what I see, what I know with my heart, nothing more.” (185) “My father used to say that there are forces in the universe that can transform our lives if only we surrendered ourselves.” (186) “Freedom, Abuela tells me, is nothing more than the right to a decent life.” (233)

  14. 5 out of 5

    kirkesque

    A deliberate and pedantic narration prevents deeper connection with the characters. And for a story set against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution and generational diaspora, this was exceedingly boring. The most dominate flaw is the hyper-conscious. MFA-creative writing style of writing in the present tense. Seldom is there a novel which demonstrates reason to do this, other than the myopic programming of creative writing programs, and it certainly does not merit use in a tale that switches A deliberate and pedantic narration prevents deeper connection with the characters. And for a story set against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution and generational diaspora, this was exceedingly boring. The most dominate flaw is the hyper-conscious. MFA-creative writing style of writing in the present tense. Seldom is there a novel which demonstrates reason to do this, other than the myopic programming of creative writing programs, and it certainly does not merit use in a tale that switches chronological spaces throughout. Perhaps if there was an attempt to show the rush of history is always happening, but there is no evidence in the text of that intention. And, much Lou Reed "fans sniff each other out," the use of his Take No Prisoners album meant to, most likely, show the character of Pilar as being among the coolest of the cool, swinging the wealthiest cultural capital in NYC's underground. This indeed contributed to Pilar being the only character who showed much beyond the shallows of literary personality, but smacked of inauthenticity. Alas, it has some passages worth unpacking, but for the most part this novel is a muddle mess of tedium and semi-poetic prose that ultimately crashes in under the weight of its own attempts at trying too hard to be significant. [edited a couple of typos; 9/16/13]

  15. 4 out of 5

    Esther

    I did my senior thesis on this book, and I loved it. For those English and Spanish speakers. The relationships Christina Garcia creates between the different generations, and the circular motions in which she presents their stories and intertwines them is like poetry. And reading it in Spanish is even more poetic...though Garcia originally tried to write the novel in Spanish, and said she could not, and ended up writing it in English, I still think the translation is beautiful. I really enjoyed I did my senior thesis on this book, and I loved it. For those English and Spanish speakers. The relationships Christina Garcia creates between the different generations, and the circular motions in which she presents their stories and intertwines them is like poetry. And reading it in Spanish is even more poetic...though Garcia originally tried to write the novel in Spanish, and said she could not, and ended up writing it in English, I still think the translation is beautiful. I really enjoyed the book, and loved how the author obviously relates to Pilar and her plight, as well as taking a good look at Cuba. The politics of the book, though unpopular with many Cuban-Americans I am sure, show both sides pretty well. I really enjoyed the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    This book was just so so for me. I feel like I missed something. Told over many years, back & forth in time & places ( NYC & Cuba), and a variety of family members. The main thread that I felt was severe mental illness with all the family members, yet this was only addressed with one family member....It was just not what I expected & I did finish it because I thought I would get some clarity, but I did not.

  17. 4 out of 5

    SarahC

    Actually 2 1/2 stars--- Dreaming in Cuban is one of those novels that is somewhat a struggle to read. It is interesting but at the same time disjointed. Perhaps the author hopes to represent the disjointed lives of Cubans and Cuban-Americans during the Batistan government and after the Cuban Revolution by using a very disjointed narrative. I feel that method of writing isn’t necessary to get the point across. The novel describes the lives of three generations of a Cuban family prior to and since Actually 2 1/2 stars--- Dreaming in Cuban is one of those novels that is somewhat a struggle to read. It is interesting but at the same time disjointed. Perhaps the author hopes to represent the disjointed lives of Cubans and Cuban-Americans during the Batistan government and after the Cuban Revolution by using a very disjointed narrative. I feel that method of writing isn’t necessary to get the point across. The novel describes the lives of three generations of a Cuban family prior to and since the revolution that overturned their country and redefined everything. The central character Celia del Pino grew up in a broken family and many of her struggles are truly personal. As her own children reach adulthood, the sanctioned government falls to the revolution and the del Pinos become more fragmented. Two daughters, Felicia and Lourdes, make separate choices between the United States and Cuba, but their common thread is that of mental and emotional imbalance. And finally, growing up in the U.S., Lourdes’ daughter Pilar embodies the conflicts of all the generations, feeling old at twenty-one, wishing to embrace the Cuban roots her parents left behind, and hearing the voice of her Abuela Celia in quiet moments. In the forms of various character viewpoints and the long-running letters of Celia to a past lover, the novel tells many details that make the results of revolution a living story. In the words of granddaughter Pilar, “Cuba is a peculiar exile, I think an island-colony. We can reach it by a thirty-minute charter flight from Miami, yet never reach it at all.” An important story here is the effect of the revolutionary outcome on Celia and her impact on the revolution. I wanted more of Celia and her life as she chose to support El Lider Fidel Castro with all her energy. However the stories of the dysfunction of daughters Felicia and Lourdes were less satisfying and seemed to get in the way of Celia’s story. We saw some of the story of this aging woman Celia, but not enough. I do feel that Garcia’s writing structure and detail become barriers to what is really an exquisite human story. Not for a minute did I not want to read this story and it has been on my to-read list for ages. However, some of the symbolism is overdone. The repeated references to the tidal wave of 1932 is seemingly symbolic of destruction within Celia’s life, but I just think this symbol was used too heavily, along with that of the sea-salt-bleached piano. The continuous sexual descriptions were possibly meant as symbolic of emptiness, struggle, or heartbreak, but became tedious and lessened the strength and maturity of the story. Many of the elements of the story do motivate me to learn more of Cuba and seek out other authors telling of the personal repercussions of revolution so close to the U.S. both in geography and in American family histories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Giulia

    1.5 stars because I feel bad giving just one. I simply did not enjoy this book. I just kept reading it to get to the end and not because I liked reading it. There were some paragraphs I completely skipped and a few I quite *almost* appreciated. The plot revolves around the life of three generations, from grandmother to mom and to daughter. Their story alternates Cuba and New York City as their background and we are like an audience admiring the show of their life. There are a few reasons I did not 1.5 stars because I feel bad giving just one. I simply did not enjoy this book. I just kept reading it to get to the end and not because I liked reading it. There were some paragraphs I completely skipped and a few I quite *almost* appreciated. The plot revolves around the life of three generations, from grandmother to mom and to daughter. Their story alternates Cuba and New York City as their background and we are like an audience admiring the show of their life. There are a few reasons I did not love the book. - The characters were poorly developed and I didn't feel sympathy for any of them. I was interested in maybe two of them at different moments, but I just didn't feel they were the right kind of characters is that possible? Or were they so real I did not enjoy their presence? I don't know. - This book made me feel sad. I wasn't happy when I was reading, I didn't feel any kind of emotions. I think that is quite bad for a book, as I like to feel something, even if it is just anger or disappointment. I was just sad and not inclined on continue the story because of the story itself. - I was expecting much more after reading the back cover. I was expecting a much larger presence of the two different locations, but it did not happen. I was just stuck with a lot of smaller details about them and I was like "Yes... and now what?!". All in all, I struggled a lot whit reading this one. And I just kept pushing through because I do not like not finishing a book. Was it a waste of time? Probably. At least, I can finally say that it's over. Onto the next book now.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn Cassada

    In Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina García tells the stories of three generations of Cuban women in the time period surrounding the Cuban Revolution. The book was very interesting and sometimes challenging to read because García switched among the stories of the women and within those stories, she often changed the perspective from first person to third person or vice versa. Nonetheless, I liked this narrative technique was an interesting way for the reader to gain perspective on the different In Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina García tells the stories of three generations of Cuban women in the time period surrounding the Cuban Revolution. The book was very interesting and sometimes challenging to read because García switched among the stories of the women and within those stories, she often changed the perspective from first person to third person or vice versa. Nonetheless, I liked this narrative technique was an interesting way for the reader to gain perspective on the different characters. Furthermore, García’s writing style is beautiful. At first, I felt a little bit bogged down by all of the imagery and description, but I came to really enjoy the ways in which the author brought her characters into life. For me, the story of Pilar, the youngest of the women, was most fascinating as it follows her struggle to form her identity as a Cuban-American. She lives with her parents in New York City and García describes her as an aspiring artist and young woman who is intelligent, strong and ambitious and striving to find her place in life. She constantly fights with her mother and longs to be with her grandmother in Cuba. It was very interesting to see the development of the relationships among these women as the novel progressed. I thought it was a great read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of Cuba and how the Revolution affected the lives of Cubans or the struggle to find identity between different cultures.

  20. 5 out of 5

    ☼♎ Carmen the Bootyshaker Temptress ☼♎

    This was a really well written story about the struggle of the women and their reality to the present and the past but also to each other. A great story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    I have to say that I hardly remember Dreaming in Cuban's characters and story. In fact, a few weeks after finishing it, everything had left my memory except for certain strong impressions--its atmosphere, images, & emotions--all of which eventually blurred together and remain with me a year later. Whether this is a good sign or something unintended by the author, I haven't really figured out. Either way, I am still totally amazed by its dreamlike effects. García carries us on her lush, poetic I have to say that I hardly remember Dreaming in Cuban's characters and story. In fact, a few weeks after finishing it, everything had left my memory except for certain strong impressions--its atmosphere, images, & emotions--all of which eventually blurred together and remain with me a year later. Whether this is a good sign or something unintended by the author, I haven't really figured out. Either way, I am still totally amazed by its dreamlike effects. García carries us on her lush, poetic prose into the lives of a split family, mainly of its women: Pilar and her mother Lourdes who live in the US and Pilar's grandmother who is back in Cuba. Of course, there is some interesting generational conflict and peeks into their past (and Cuba's)--deep traumas presented with a dose of magical realism. The narrative is fragmented but smooth, like a dream, pulling you along with changing POV's and ethereal and/or striking anecdotes. So the plot (if it exists) really does not seem to have any kind of direction, nor a real ending. But in the end, I found myself pleased with the reading experience. I enjoyed each moment of the writing. It was like slowly eating a rich tropical fruit that happened to be my only source of sustenance, only sometimes crying at the same time--you know, getting stabbed by some pungent sadness. Whenever I sat down to read I felt the air around me go humid and I breathed it in from the pages. Fo' reals. When they returned, it [the del Pinos's house:] was like an undersea cave, blanched by the ocean. Dried algae stuck to the walls and the sand formed a strange topography on the floors. and The air was different from Cuba's. It had a cold, smoked smell that chilled my lungs. The skies looked newly washed, streaked with light. And the trees were different, too. They looked on fire. I'd run through great heaps of leaves just to hear them rustle like the palm trees during hurricanes in Cuba. I will stop spoiling everything now, but yeah! Gorgeous. Something cool to note is García's mother tongue's influence on her style: She imagines her granddaughter pale, gliding through paleness, malnourished and cold without the food of scarlets and greens. Another reviewer mentioned that Cristina García initially tried writing this novel in Spanish. This really fascinates me. García is definitely in her element in English. Interesting too in Dreaming in Cuban is the relationship between imagination & memory and history and how it helps people to cope. García gives it some lovely & moving though incomplete exploration in the stories of these women.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    So. I'm not sure who is deeming these books on the Common Core book list acceptable, but this is another atrocity. Here is another book considered a great read for high school students, sophomores and higher. However, the language is sometimes vulgar, the explicit sexual descriptions are not something any kid should be reading about, let alone discussing with their English teacher or parent. All I can think, is the author must be friends with the people recommending this book for the high school So. I'm not sure who is deeming these books on the Common Core book list acceptable, but this is another atrocity. Here is another book considered a great read for high school students, sophomores and higher. However, the language is sometimes vulgar, the explicit sexual descriptions are not something any kid should be reading about, let alone discussing with their English teacher or parent. All I can think, is the author must be friends with the people recommending this book for the high school lists. This is a book about a Cuban family, part of whom move to New York (the dad is sickly and takes his favourite daughter with him) and the others remain in Cuba. The story is a retell of the characters' lives. Trying to keep everyone straight is tough, especially if you put the book down for a couple hours. The grandmother is crazy and loves Fidel Castro, El Lider, the daughter that remains in Cuba has twin girls and a son, but she too is crazy, ends up burning the husband's face, killing two others, trying to kill the son, it goes on and on like this. The daughter in New York, communicates with her dead father, eats her way to obesity, she has a daughter (who is a punk artist and rebel), she also had a son from a rape and he died. The whole book is very convoluted and I found myself having to flip back and forth, re-reading pages, trying to remember what was what. Just save yourself some time, and if this comes home on the book list, by-pass it!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Oh, this makes the... what? 10th time now? Granted, I teach this book in one of my classes, else I probably would not have read it as often, but each time I honestly do find new points to discuss with students. More importantly, the students always bring up amazing points that have never occurred to me! It does get better each time. If I could bump my rating up a half star, I'd do so.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    I wanted to like this but it didn't happen. I'm surprised I finished because I wanted to quit several time. I had hope I guess. I felt confused at times. Many characters, time jumping, and letters to a character I didn't really understand.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    I really liked this book. It gave good insight to life in Cuba, immigration in NY and Miami and the role of women

  26. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    From the French Revolution in The Glass-Blowers I went directly to the Cuban Revolution. In light of recent developments in the United States relations with Cuba, the Tiny Book Club decided to read a novel set in Cuba and written by a Cuban. Cristina Garcia was born in Havana on July 4, 1958, just about six months before Fidel Castro's revolution ousted dictator Batista. So even though her family fled Cuba when she was only two years old, we thought her first novel would fit the bill. It is a From the French Revolution in The Glass-Blowers I went directly to the Cuban Revolution. In light of recent developments in the United States relations with Cuba, the Tiny Book Club decided to read a novel set in Cuba and written by a Cuban. Cristina Garcia was born in Havana on July 4, 1958, just about six months before Fidel Castro's revolution ousted dictator Batista. So even though her family fled Cuba when she was only two years old, we thought her first novel would fit the bill. It is a wonderful novel and like The Glass-Blowers, deals with the impact and consequences of revolution on a family. For various reasons I have lately been thinking about the consequences of divorce on families with children. There are numerous parallels between the two. The bottom line is upheaval accompanied by the necessity to take sides, the emotional turmoil, the economic disruption, and the fact that nothing will be the same as it was before. The viewpoint in this novel is decidedly female and each female is her own unique person. My favorite character was Celia, the grandmother, who remained in Cuba and was a supporter of Castro and his hopes for the country. She is a complex character who harbored a life long love for her first boyfriend, who had a difficult relationship with her husband, who went crazy at the birth of her first daughter and was sent to an asylum by that husband where she was given shock treatments. Good God! That first daughter, Lourdes, moved to New York after her marriage. She purely hates Castro and is a complete piece of work with not one gentle emotion in her makeup, but I liked her too. A second daughter remained in Cuba and is a wild woman who dabbles in a Cuban mystical religion originated by slaves and succumbs to it in the end. Then there is Pilar, daughter of Lourdes and an example of a 1970s daughter of immigrants in New York's art scene. She is Celia's favorite granddaughter and they long for each other. She was my second favorite character. Basically every character is fractured in some way, even the men, and if you are looking for exemplary mothers you won't find a one. But you will find fierce mothers and strong emotions and wild behaviors. The lushness of Cuba, the magical realism that is just part of the country, and the search for identity in an essentially broken society are all brought to full and vivid life. Though one of the Tinies had some trouble with the way the story jumps about in time, we all felt we got what we were looking for. I had no idea Cristina Garcia has written so many books. I read The Aguero Sisters about 20 years ago but now I want to read them all.

  27. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is Cristina García's first novel. A finalist for the National Book Award, the story is set in both Cuba and the United States, moving back and forth as it tells the saga of three generations of a single family. The novel focuses particularly on the females—Celia del Pino, her daughters Lourdes and Felicia, and her granddaughter Pilar. Family relationships are at the heart of Dreaming in Cuban, which explores how they are twisted by physical separation, politics, and lack of communication. This is Cristina García's first novel. A finalist for the National Book Award, the story is set in both Cuba and the United States, moving back and forth as it tells the saga of three generations of a single family. The novel focuses particularly on the females—Celia del Pino, her daughters Lourdes and Felicia, and her granddaughter Pilar. Family relationships are at the heart of Dreaming in Cuban, which explores how they are twisted by physical separation, politics, and lack of communication. Many of the relationships are ruptured in the novel. Mothers and daughters seem largely unable to connect, as nothing is able to close the distance between Lourdes and Celia, and Lourdes and Pilar are also divided by a lack of understanding. Only the bond across generations seems to last: Celia is close to her grandchildren, Pilar in particular. The friendship that springs up between Ivanito and Pilar suggests that there may be hope for connection within the third generation of the family as well. Dreaming in Cuban is divided into three books. Each book consists of several chapters of narration and one or more chapters of letters written by Celia. The letters all were written prior to the timeline of the rest of the novel. Within each chapter, different sections may center on different characters. These are indicated by the appearance of the character’s name along with the year prior to the section. The narration of the novel generally moves forward in time, but this is complicated by the frequent appearance of past memories and the fact that the novel jumps back and forth between different locations and characters. The novel is also written through several different styles of narration. The majority of the novel is told through a third-person omniscient narrator. This style of narration is used for sections of the novel centering on the older generations—Celia, Lourdes, and Felicia—as well as Ivanito’s first section. First-person narration also appears, usually in connection with the youngest generation of the del Pino family. Pilar is the most frequent first-person narrator, but Ivanito and Luz (Felicia’s children) also narrate sections in the first person. Additionally, Herminia, Felicia’s best friend, narrates a section telling the story of Felicia’s final days. Celia’s first-person voice is also heard through the appearance of her letters. The result of all of this makes an unusually well written, although complex, first novel.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    A lyrical,haunting,confusing novel of lost love and heartache. Garcia has a way with words that can make the readers heart race. She is poetic and mystical and heartbreakingly sad. Her characters are all flawed and this novel flows well in an often confusing daze from person to person at different time periods through Cuba's revolutionary beginning in the seventies. It begins with the life of Celia Almeida del Pinto. Her clearest memory as a child is when her mother abandons her and puts her on A lyrical,haunting,confusing novel of lost love and heartache. Garcia has a way with words that can make the readers heart race. She is poetic and mystical and heartbreakingly sad. Her characters are all flawed and this novel flows well in an often confusing daze from person to person at different time periods through Cuba's revolutionary beginning in the seventies. It begins with the life of Celia Almeida del Pinto. Her clearest memory as a child is when her mother abandons her and puts her on a train going to her aunt's and never looks back. This abandonment and sadness creates the theme of the novel which is parelled in the loss of a Cuba that once was before the revolution. The illusion of loss and inability to cope with it literally drives some of the characters crazy. Each copes with it in a different way including moving as far away as possible. Interesting characters, moving prose, vivid imagery are the strengths of this novel. Garcia also manages to make the reader struggle with the novels time periods and characters jumping back and forth, sometimes not really making sense. In all an enjoyable, readable novel with flaws..much like her characters

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christian Paula

    Sometimes a book hits you in the right way at the right time. I remember seeing this book in high school, when it was required reading for other classes I wasn't a part of. I saw it at a thrift store and figured it was as good a time as any to pick it up. After A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON, this was exactly the book I wanted to read next. A family saga of three generations of women, coming to themselves and each other amidst the backdrop of Communist Cuba. Family sagas are part of my wheelhouse, Sometimes a book hits you in the right way at the right time. I remember seeing this book in high school, when it was required reading for other classes I wasn't a part of. I saw it at a thrift store and figured it was as good a time as any to pick it up. After A FIERCE AND SUBTLE POISON, this was exactly the book I wanted to read next. A family saga of three generations of women, coming to themselves and each other amidst the backdrop of Communist Cuba. Family sagas are part of my wheelhouse, but DREAMING IN CUBAN hit especially home as a first generation immigrant and all that entails. Beautiful writing and vivid imagery. So glad I finally got around to reading this one.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    Garcia’s writing is exquisite, oftentimes brilliant, but this novel about a Cuban family during the revolution demands patience. It can be a labor to trudge through with its hodgepodge story, told in bursts and fragments, which make it difficult to engage entirely in the narrative. I would have liked more flow and momentum in order to feel the immediacy of events as they transpired. It feels too much like starting and stopping and having to regain your bearings each time. Fortunately, the book Garcia’s writing is exquisite, oftentimes brilliant, but this novel about a Cuban family during the revolution demands patience. It can be a labor to trudge through with its hodgepodge story, told in bursts and fragments, which make it difficult to engage entirely in the narrative. I would have liked more flow and momentum in order to feel the immediacy of events as they transpired. It feels too much like starting and stopping and having to regain your bearings each time. Fortunately, the book is on the shorter side, and Garcia's strong prose gave me reason to persevere through to the end, although the result is not entirely satisfying.

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