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Blessed by Thunder: Memoir of a Cuban Girlhood Paperback – March 18, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595503780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595503780
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,451,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On the surface, this beautifully written memoir is riveting simply because it revolves around a young girl growing up in Cuba during the Communist revolution. When Flor Fernandez Barrios's parents consider fleeing Castro's regime, they are labeled gusanos, or traitors. Neighbors shame and taunt them. At the age of 10, Barrios is sent away along with thousands of other children to a work camp, where she is forced into hard labor, picking tobacco and sugar cane to offset the U.S. embargo.

Barrios could have relied upon the dramatic details of her life in Cuba to make this memoir fascinating. But instead she dared to mine the depths of the cultural and spiritual story beneath the surface. Like Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits, this is a tale of magic, spirits, and family devotion. Throughout her childhood, Barrios's mystical grandmothers, as well as her Afro-Cuban nanny, teach her the names and stories of their indigenous spirits, and their secret spells of healing. It is these Cuban spirits who thunder and comfort Barrios during her shameful punishments at work camp. Years later, the memories of her Cuban mentors and healing spirits help the exiled Barrios find her place in a new country. This is a highly recommended story of Cuban life, spiritual heritage, and human fortitude. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Offering a striking child's-eye view of the Cuban revolution, Barrios begins her memoir with her birth during a hurricane, which convinced her curandera grandmother that the child would be a spiritual healer like her. When Barrios was a year old, Castro's 1956 Radio Rebelde broadcasts disrupted evening domino games in her hometown in Santa Clara province. In 1958, her father was falsely accused of being a Castro sympathizer and detained. Though he was returned to his family, their lives were soon upended: "agrarian reform" forced her grandfather to give his land to Castro's government and Barrios was sent to the countryside for two years as a child laborer. To win a weekend pass to visit her parents, she picked tobacco until her fingers were bloody. "All I knew was that the word communist meant lack of freedom," she writes. Though Castro had promised racial equality (Barrios was nicknamed negrita, "little black one," by her grandmother), Barrios did not find that much changed. When her father was later sent to a labor camp as an anti-Castro gusano (a slang term meaning "maggot"), he shared frogs and fish with guards who were as hungry as he was. A decade later, Barrios's family was allowed to emigrate to Los Angeles, where most thought she was Mexican. She initially sought acceptance by "toning down the bright colors of her Cuban culture," but after completing a UCLA pre-med program, Barrios embraced her roots and the Afro-Cuban spirituality instilled in her by her grandmother and nanny, Carmen. The book includes a Spanish glossary, but even without it, the rich context of Barrios's memories fluently conveys the nuances of her idioms and offsets the uneven writing.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Banfield on April 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
At age 10, I went to Girl Scout camp, where I cooked outdoors, got in trouble for playing pranks, spent the days hiking and swimming, and went home after a week. At age 10, the author and her schoolmates were taken out of school and forced into a labor camp where they ate wormy food (when they had it), got in serious trouble for not following the Communist party line, spent the days picking tobacco, and did this for TWO YEARS! Makes you think just how ineffective the Castro system really is, doesn't it? This book should be required reading for those Anglos like me who are trying to understand the Cuban-American experience.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Flor's written her memoir in the voice of the young girl who watched her life, home and family be taken away from her. It is quite a powerful story in its own right and amazing to think of the plight she and her family endured. What is even more inspiring is the way she remained connected to her Cuban roots and found strength in the memories and lessons of her family.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What a beautifully spirited young woman you share w/us Flor. Her familial and spiritual support and courage to endure through much adversity make this a very inspiring read. There are many stories of struggle under the Castro regim, but this is the first gift of the view through the eyes of a child. Mil Gracias!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Seal Press on December 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
"...Flor Fernandez Barrios, in Blessed By Thunder, ushers readers into startling proximity to a Cuba seen through the eyes of a woman whose childhood was both shaped and shattered by the beautiful island. Like the most powerful of fiction or nonfiction coming-of-age tales, the book is rich with tactile memories, laced with the scents of strong Cuban coffee, tobacco and jasmine blossoms, freshly fried plaintains, and much more....The indelible quality of Barrios' observations, specific and true, make Blessed by Thunder an important chronicle of the Cuban experience. Not only that, but her voice stands alongside those of Hispanic writers such as Oscar Hijuelos, Kathleen Alcala, Isable Allende, Laura Esquivel, Rudolfo Anaya, and others in revealing the way in which spirits inhabit the very elements of life....In the voice of a survivor who has both culled the strongest roots of her Cuban culture and looked forward to a rebuilt life in America..., Flor Fernandez Barrios moves readers beyond politics and into the depths of the healing heart." --Marlene Blessing, The Bloomsbury Review
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a superb memoir Ms. Fernandez has written! Not only is it beatifully written, but it is also a historical important book. Blessed by Thunder chronicles the little known child labor camps that exist in Cuba to this day by someone who was there. Ms. Fernandez learned magic from her grandmother and her nanny and she weaves a mean literary spell.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Juana Olga Barrios on October 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Blessed By Thunder is a stunning achievement and a heartfelt story about what it is to grow up too quickly, what it is to lose your home and your country and to find yourself in the land of magnificent promises and deferred dreams... America! Flor Fernandez Barrios has written an exceptional memoir that recounts shocking stories of the layers and layers of betrayal and deception the Cuban people have endured through Castro's four-decade-old revolution. As the child of Cuban exiles I devour books about that mysterious jewel of an island called Cuba...so near and yet so far.... We are Blessed by writers such as Fernandez Barrios who has pierced the exotic veil of this intoxicating neighbor of ours and who has laced her stories with wrenching details of how ordinary lives have been touched by this larger world event. Her memoir is elegant and deeply provoking and her stories stay with you long after the book is done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By "superser" on August 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I thank God daily for the decision my parents made when sending me alone out of Cuba . Since my parents thought that they could say they were going on vacation, they had also packed to leave with me but the militia was too wise for that and held my mom's and dad's visa at the docks since they had not left everything to the government.At the precise moment they decided to send me alone (8-05-61)on the last cargo ferry that left Havana with sugar,under the care of Pedro Pan Operation. I was starting fourth grade that September of 1961 and I would have gone through the same ordeal Teresa went through. I admire Flor Teresa for the loyalty to her parents and family, for her courage of making the best of the moment and for her maturity at such young age. I believe that young as well as old will get teachings from this book. Teachingsof survival, of meeting with your goals, of distinguishing what is right from what is wrong and of giving a value to the simple things in life. As an adult Flor Teresa must be an extraordinary human being.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Rashid on August 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
As I read on, I felt as though it was MY OWN story! I, too came from Cuba at 15 and being the author's age went through most of the same experiences. It's about time that we put it out there for non Cuban-Americans to know. There is NOTHING fun, romantic or exotic about Cuba. Castro's is a bloody dictatorship that destroys human beings! I admire the author for her courage. She has inspired me to some day tell my own story.

Marina, Pembroke Pines, Florida
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