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Days of Awe Hardcover – July 31, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (July 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034543921X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345439215
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,102,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born the day Castro came to power, the protagonist of this thoughtful novel comes with her mother and father to the United States when she is two, but cannot ignore her tangled Cuban roots. Alejandra San Jos‚ and her parents, Nena and Enrique, settle in Chicago, where Enrique works as a literary translator and Nena grows roses and sunflowers. Their neighborhood is predominantly Jewish, and as Ale grows up she picks up on small signs that her family has something in common with its neighbors. It is not until she is an adult, however, working as an interpreter, that she discovers that her father is Jewish, the grandson of a flamboyantly Jewish hero of the Cuban war of independence; her mother, though devoutly Catholic, has Jewish ancestors, too. On a series of trips to Cuba, Ale comes to know her father's oldest friend, Mois‚s Menach, and through him learns her family's history. In her stays with the Menachs, and her charged friendship with Mois‚s's son-in-law, Orlando, she learns about contemporary Cuba and gradually comes to terms with her own identity. The searching narrative digs deep into questions of faith, conversion, nationality and history, exploring philosophical issues in human terms. Though sharp, cleverly observed details bring Havana and Chicago to life, the novel is richer in ideas than in depictions of place. Obejas (Memory Mambo) is concerned most of all with relationships between Ale and her lovers, male and female; between Ale and her secretive father. If the near-plotless narrative drags in places, it is redeemed by Obejas's clear-eyed, remarkably fresh meditation on familiar but perennially vital themes. 3-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Obejas's (Memory Mambo) second novel may be the first in the subgenre of both Jewish American and Cuban American fiction: the Jewish-Cuban-American novel. In this well-considered and heartfelt examination of exile and return, two-year-old Alejandra San Jos has left Cuba in 1959 with her parents. Her father is Jewish, though he hides it, even breaking a window in anger when his daughter and her friends spy him praying in his basement office in Chicago. Her mother is both Catholic and a sometime believer in the Santer!a gods. Ale's visits to Cuba in 1987 and 1997 lead her to extraordinary discoveries about herself, her cultures, and her family, as she slowly learns of her great-grandfather's and father's clinging to a religion whose Cuban adherents have become scarce over time. Her own sexual experiences, more vivid in Cuba than in the United States, help her recognize that Cuba, Judaism, and tropical eroticism make up a complex personality, which Ale bears on her back like a Bedouin. With intelligent, intense writing, Obejas approaches, in ambition, the heady climes of Cuban American stalwarts Oscar Hijuelos and Cristina Garcia. Highly recommended for collections strong in Latino and Jewish American literature.
- Harold Augenbraum, Mercantile Lib. of New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was very dissappointed to read a recent review from an reader in W. VA, I believe, referring to the lack of plot and character development in Obejas' "Days of Awe." The book is, in fact, a historical documentation, beautifully portrayed through the difficult realizations of a young woman with regard to the rich, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic complexity that all Cubans must face with regard to their cultural identity. I, personally, was awed by this booked that so lovelingly and gently depicts a story that touches on the cultural identity of the Island of Cuba, rather than its political confusion and turmoil. Obejas manages to take us on a reflective journey, maintaining a clear through line, that may not be linear, but certainly carefully crafted, with characters that personify the very essence that is the diverse and complicated result of Cuba's wealth of humanity and cultural history.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By HeyJudy VINE VOICE on October 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
DAYS OF AWE is written beautifully, the work of a skilled author. An enormous amount of research had to have gone into this novel, and it shows. There are multiple sets of historical detail, any one set of which would have been sufficient for a compelling manuscript.
First, there is the background of life in Cuba before Fidel Castro came to power. There is the conflict of those who made their escape from Fidel's Cuba and the report of life in Cuba today. And there is the story of the life of the Cuban immigrant to the United States. All of these subplots are revealed skillfully by the author.
Additionally, there is the far lesser known history of the "Marranos," the Jews of Medieval Spain who pretended to become Christians to escape the Inquisition. Five centuries later, some of these Marranos yet have descendants who are practicing, still in hiding, their version of the Jewish religion. Some of those persecuted in 1492 made their ways to Cuba--even on the ships of Columbus--and the father of the heroine of this novel is descended from one of these very refugees.
So this is a book that comes close to greatness. The main characters never succeed in engaging the reader, however. And, ultimately, the story arc itself seems pointless. Still, the virtue of DAYS OF AWE is in the details.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By toni on October 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Revolutions happen, I'm convinced, because intuition tells us we're meant for a greater world (a better life) ... I've got my own revolution," -- so begins Alejandra San Jose, the novel's narrator, and Achy Obejas in the opening lines of this literary feast, as writer and storyteller bring their stories to life.
Obejas, at one point in her paragraphs, enlightens her uninformed readers with the awareness that the "Days of Awe" (the title of her book) refer(s) to the calendar span of time between the Jewish Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); and, although the novel is filled with religious and Cuban Revolutionary references, I have had NO CHOICE in my interpretation of the title as, more importantly, giving reference to Alejandra's life - the span of days from her timely and important, significant birth (New Year's Day - January 1st) to her own present-day "atonement" for her sin of having turned her back on her other/Cuban self and life. A betrayal which has led to an ongoing internal struggle and exhausting search for an identity -- "an overwhelming feeling produced by that which is grand, sublime."
As an adult, Alejandra comes to realize that her ex(iting)-lovers are not the only ones who see a stranger when they look into her eyes; and she learns that she must first "find herself" if she is ever to "be found" (loved) by another. Thus, she goes off in search of a recognizable reflection -- an encounter with an "unmasked, vulnerable self" who dwells deeply submerged in the waters of a past that has been "echado en el olvido" of another time.
We hear Ale ask herself: "Who am I ...?" -- then answer her own question, "I'm a stranger ...
Read more ›
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lee A. Rubinstein on March 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
What started out as a (potentially) fascinating look at a Cuban exile's perspective on Cuba and the discovery of her Judaism, quicky became a novel of gratuitious sex, unanswered questions and a book sorely in need of an editor! Obejas' story might have been interesting in her head but it didn't translate well to paper. There were several bright spots, such as when she discusses linguistics and how the meaning of a word can be changed in the translation, but overall the story jumped around so much that it was difficult to tell what was going on. The main character's obsession with an older, flabby man who is married to a distant relative is pretty pathetic, and there is no motivation for her affair with him. Some characters (Seth, the boyfriend, for example) are never fully explored and seem almost an afterthought as if the editor told Obeajs, "I need more pages...write stuff!" The sex is almost disturbing, it's never wonderful and lovely. And suffice it to say that I wil never look at a glass of milk the same way again!

Days of Awe's story is all over the place, the characters aren't developed and the exploration of the writer's Judiasm is not particularly well done. All in all, put this one back on the shelf!
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