From Publishers Weekly
Born in 1959, journalist Garcia spent his first 12 years in Cuba, plenty of time to pile up grievances against the Communist regime. His parents owned a small haberdashery whose business dried up with the gradual suppression of commerce after the revolution, until it was taken over by the state. When his parents applied to emigrate, his father was sent to a labor camp to cut sugar cane, and the family was meticulously divested of their belongings before being allowed to leave. Garcia's is an emblematic story of the dispossession and exile of Cuba's middle class, leavened with bittersweet reminiscences of his warmly convivial extended family, which comprised both Communist officials and disaffected partisans of the prerevolutionary past. As well, it's a study of the downside of Cuba's revolution—skimpy food rations, endless queues for shoddy goods, beady-eyed busybodies in the neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, all justified by strident propaganda in the classroom and media. Garcia's rancorous score-settling with communism can be intrusive; "it's not a very revolutionary thing to do, but... even communists need toilet paper," he gloats about a common unauthorized use for the works of Lenin. But he does offer an intriguing corrective to romanticized accounts of socialist Cuba. (May)
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Garcia was 12 years old in 1971 when his family at last received permission to leave Castro's Cuba, and in a series of immediate, present-tense, first-person vignettes, he tells how it was from the child's bewildered viewpoint. He remembers the idiocy of the indoctrination (he wants to be "a good little communist," but his parents are not good revolutionaries, and that scares him); the hardship when his father is sent to labor camp to cut sugarcane for nearly three years; the boredom of Castro's speeches (six hours without even a toilet break). The kid wants to listen to the Beatles, not revolutionary songs, and his idea of summer camp is not picking lemons for the revolution. His sharp childhood memories are mixed with adult commentary. Looking back now, the propaganda feels "Orwellian," and being forced to leave his close-knit extended family remains painful. All the detail sometimes gets repetitive, but the young boy's coming-of-age brings the forced-immigration story up close. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved