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.
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.
Thank you, Flor, for sharing your story. You came through your experiences as a child with such grace and strength. Read morePublished on February 8, 2006 by A. Brassert
The stories in Cuba were amazing. I was transported to Cuba and was right there observing the island, the people, the food, the smells, the conversations, the textures, the pain,... Read morePublished on July 26, 2005 by Coco Ohio
The book was a smooth read. Ms. Fernandez-Barrios made me feel apart of her. Her memoir was so vivid. She connected herself to all the ancestrial roots of Cuba. Read morePublished on July 31, 2001 by "lolasula"
Blessed By Thunder: Memoir Of A Cuban Girlhood is a compelling autobiography of a Cuban childhood amidst the drama and struggle of Cuba's revolution and consequent relative... Read morePublished on February 7, 2001 by Midwest Book Review
"In the heartbreaking story of her life in Cuba and the United States, Flor Fernandez gives us one of the first accounts of this passage that does not have a political agenda. Read morePublished on December 11, 2000 by Seal Press
"The story of Cuba continues to unwind through time, across oceans, in the bloodstream of her descendents, over many lands. Read morePublished on December 11, 2000 by Seal Press
This is a book not to be missed by anyone interested in the history of Cuba, whether they celebrate or demonize Castro's revolution. Read morePublished on November 3, 2000