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Days of Awe (Ballantine Reader's Circle) [Kindle Edition]

Achy Obejas
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $4.96 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

On New Year's Day 1959, as Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, Alejandra San José was born in Havana, entering the world through the heart of revolution. Fearing the conflict and strife that bubbled up in the streets all around the new family, her parents took Ale and fled to the free shores of America.

Ale grew up in Chicago amid a close community of refugees who lived with the hope that one day Castro would fall and they could return to their Cuban homes. Though Ale was intrigued by the specter of Havana that colored her life as a child, her fascination eventually faded in her teens until all that remained was her profound respect for the intricacies of the Spanish language and the beautiful work her father did as a linguist and translator.

When her own job as an interpreter takes her back to Cuba, Ale is initially unmoved at the import of her return-- until she stumbles upon a surprising truth: the San Josés, ostensibly Catholics, are actually Jews. They are conversos who converted to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition.

Enlightened by a whole new vision of her past and her culture, Ale makes her way back through San José history, uncovering new fragments of truth about the relatives who struggled with their own identities so long ago. Ale is finally lured back to Cuba to make amends with the ancestral demons still lurking there--to translate her father's troubling youthful experiences into the healing language of her Cuban American heart.

In beautiful, knowing prose, Achy Obejas opens up a fascinating world of exotic wordplay, rich history, and vibrant emotions. As Alejandra struggles to confront what it is to be Cuban and American, Catholic and Jewish, Obejas illuminates her journey and the tempestuous history of Cuba with intelligence and affection. Days of Awe is a lyrical and lovely novel from an author destined for literary renown.

From the Hardcover edition.

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 617 KB
  • Print Length: 402 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345441540
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU4TGI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,240 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting October 31, 2001
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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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Days of Awe isn't quite awful, but it's close... March 20, 2005
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an "encanto" of a book! October 1, 2001
By toni
"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 ...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding what the Spanish Inquision did to the Sephardic Jews of...
This story tells the tale of a people that were desimated by the Roman Catholic Church in the name of a Spanish king and queen and its effects even today. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amy
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent buy! Excellent book condition!
I remember paying a decent amount for the book and receiving it in great condition. Hardback as stated in its description. Very little, if any, damage. Excited to read it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christina Park
4.0 out of 5 stars Dazed and awed
I followed Achy Obejas's early writing, but lost the thread and have only now picked it up. Some of this is so sharp, the Jewish theme of great interest, the meditations on the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Marc J. Zimmerman
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
As a second generation Cuban, I tried earnestly to finish this book, but I found it disappointing. I wanted to learn more about the events taking place in the 50s and 60s in Cuba,... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Esperanza
1.0 out of 5 stars Good Book but Personal Feelings Get in the Way
This book was a required read for my multi culture class in college. The author is from Cuba and she does an excellent job on describing the country and the dictatorship rule of... Read more
Published 17 months ago by weser
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, lovely prose
Gorgeous and lovely prose, interesting story, fun, sexy, sweet. One of the more beautiful books I've read in a long time.
Published on October 24, 2007 by Mystery Fan
2.0 out of 5 stars Verging on terrible
I've read a lot of novels by Latina writers, looking for writing that rings true about the Latina experience, writing that will finally give a voice to the millions of Latinos and... Read more
Published on April 13, 2006 by anonymous
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb.
This book is lyrically written, emotionally wrenching, and an excellent guide into the mysterious ways of both the Cuban Jewish community and its history as well as the Cuban... Read more
Published on May 18, 2005 by Asper
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
I am a Cuban raised in Miami where there are 1 million Cubans and hardly any Cuban literature. I went to the bookstore last week after reading an article in EL NUEVO HERALD about... Read more
Published on October 2, 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Days of Awe
I just finished reading A. Obejas "Days of Awe". What a
wonderful blend of fiction and history! As a Cuban-American I'm
happy such a fine writer as Ms. Read more
Published on February 12, 2002
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