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Everyone Leaves [Kindle Edition]

Wendy Guerra , Achy Obejas
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nieve Guerra finds herself caught between the tides of her parents’ rocky relationship and a country in the midst of a revolution. Recording her daily thoughts and accounts of living with her abusive father, an alcoholic theater actor, Nieve uses her diary to express herself. From being sent away from her mother, her mother’s free-spirited and loving boyfriend, and her childhood city of Cienfuegos to being forced to call herself a Cuban “revolutionary Pioneer,” Nieve records in honest detail a life in which she loses those she loves the most—and can do nothing about it.

Through her diary entries, Nieve reveals the intimate details of a turbulent family life while painting an authentic portrait of the social and political unrest in Cuba under the rule of Castro.

Editorial Reviews Review

A Q&A with Wendy Guerra

Question: What inspired you to write Everyone Leaves?

Wendy Guerra: My parents' deaths, both in 2004, and the disappearance of a generation that is dying much sooner than its predecessors. The rediscovery of my childhood diary and the need to tell my life story through a girl in this fictitious socialist reality. I'd never known a book that spoke about life under socialism in a child's voice. In my childhood, Cuba was a place where parents had no say about whether you handled firearms at 13, or if you went to school by yourself in the countryside, or whether you aspired to university studies. Parents didn't control their children's destinies. So I decided to graft a story on this non-reality in a place that isn't what it seems, about a diaspora that every generation has had to deal with in its own way. Everyone Leaves is my exorcism from childhood and from my "inxile."

Q: Your narrator, Nieve, would be roughly the same age as you are today. Do you have anything in common?

WG: I used my own real diary as the spine for this novel, working in other stories in a kind of Aristotelian weave. I choose my own memories of what happened during that time. They were very tough times of silence and farewells. When I reread my diary, I decided to lower the heat a little bit, to be a little less judgmental than I'd been as a girl. Kids are usually sharper than any politician. They can tell what's going on and judge from a very honest perspective.

Q: Do you still keep a personal diary? If so, does it provide content for your fiction?

WG: Usually I write in my diary every day and then revise it, go over it with a more critical and literary rigor. Later, it becomes a novel.

Q: Why did you decide to write about Cuba?

WG: For me, what's important is that Cuba's story be told. Our lives--which have been lived in isolation, put on hold for 50 years, displaced from the markets, and incubated without capitalist references--are as complex as magic.

Q: What other books would you recommend to Amazon customers who are interested in Cuban life and history?

WG: No one can understand Cuba without reading Virgilio Piñera. And it's impossible to understand the sounds of Cuba without knowing the work of Nicolás Guillén.

From Booklist

The political and the personal come together—and both prove surprising—in this prize-winning novel based on the author’s diaries about growing up during and after the Cuban revolution. Translated from the Spanish, the entries (from 1978, when Nieve is seven years old, to 1990) are true to the young protagonist’s often bewildered viewpoint as she tries to sort through the adults’ mixed messages. Of course, “everyone leaves” who was part of the privileged old system but, later, so do many disappointed revolutionaries. Meanwhile, the regime is watching Nieve’s radical artist mother, who shouts at the government demonstration: “This is not what the revolution is about.” Never preachy, the commentary captures the monotony, isolation, and machismo—and the hard times—of life in the new Cuba. Moved to a government boarding school, Nieve tries to learn the rules: good table manners, for example, are bourgeois. She does have great sex, and she loves writing about it. But she hates military training: forget killing for the good of the nation. The novel, winner of the 2006 Bruguera Prize and translated into eight languages, tells a gripping story of wry contradictions and confusion. --Hazel Rochman

Product Details

  • File Size: 365 KB
  • Print Length: 267 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612184332
  • Publisher: AmazonCrossingEnglish (November 27, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008N1W01K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,970 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The author of this book is primarily a poet, which is clear in the way this book is written. It's what I believe is called creative non-fiction - the basis is Guerra's diaries which cover the author's youth in Cuba, but this is not an autobiography. The girl in this novel, Nieve (which means "snow" in Spanish), has been living with her artist mother and the mother's Swedish partner when her father is successfully able to gain custody of her, claiming that the home environment is unsuitable (it's true that the Swedish boyfriend hates to wear clothes). The father is alcoholic and abusive. Nieve is forced to live with him in a remote mountain location where he works as a puppeteer for a theater group that puts on shows for the peasants. Nieve's father not only physically abuses her, he woefully neglects her, forgetting to feed her or take her to school, but imposing so many rules that she's unable to care for herself (by asking for food from others, for example). Eventually, the mother regains custody. Nieve spends time in a "re-education" school for ideologically weak youths and also attends a residential school for artists.

Her life is colorful and the book is engaging, but oddly missing are events outside of Nieve's life - the book does not describe what does not directly involve Nieve. Obviously, the austerity of life in Cuba form the ever-present backdrop of Nieve's life, however. The repressive atmosphere, in which no-one can be trusted and the penalties for ideological independence are severe, affect Nieve's life. For example, Nieve and her mother feel most comfortable talking to each other while standing in the lagoon or ocean, so that no-one can evesdrop. Books are hidden out of sight and even young students get into serious trouble for reading banned literature.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does It Matter That This Is Cuba? January 10, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Nieve, the young Cuban protagonist of Wendy Guerra's novel Everyone Leaves, is a realist. The first hundred fifty or so pages of Guerra's book -- and Nieve's life from childhood to middle adolescence -- can usefully be characterized as a tribute to the value of lack of affect. Don't anticipate the joys of the future. You're bound to be disappointed. Don't be shocked or unduly anguished if your father gets drunk, forgets to feed you, and beats you instead. It comes with the territory. Don't be hurt or even a little surprised if your mother tries to have you committed to a state-run orphanage. After all, she's just as selfish, fearful, and ditzy in her small-time artsy way as your father is brutal, uncaring, and determined to inflict pain. That's just the way it is. The same with schools, institutions that are as impoverished and ill-suited to your own peculiar needs as a young artist beginning to develop her talent as your family, your neighborhood, your community, and your nation: don't expect anything good and you won't be disappointed.

Let's be sure not to misinterpret the overriding import of Nieve's young life. The message is not fear of the future, but unself-conscious indifference. If your world is clearly not the kind of place where good things happen to someone like you, don't expect miracles. Disappointment is the one source of pain over which Nieve has some control, and whether or not she is aware of it, she exercises it almost flawlessly.

With the exception of a one-time-only sexual interlude, Nieve's life is drab, dreary, and totally devoid of energizing sustenance. But Nieve does not complain.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Growing Up in Cuba: Everyone Leaves April 17, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
How does art survive a hostile social and political environment? Can it survive? How does an artist flourish, or even muddle through, when the inspiration and sources for one's art gradually leave, one after another, eventually leaving the artist alone?

These are the questions behind "Everyone Leaves," Cuban writer Wendy Guerra's semi-autobiographical novel of growing up in Cuba in the 1970s and 1980s, translated by Achy Obejas. It tells the story of Nieve ("Snow") Guerra, who watches her family and those of her friends fracture and fall apart under the weight of a deadening communist regime. Most eventually leave the country for Miami or Europe (everyone leaves, she keeps reminding herself); some "leave" or disappear within the country.

Nieve is an artist who gradually stops painting. She is also a survivor, due in no small part to the diary she begins to keep as a young child and maintains through adolescence and into young adulthood. The journal entries, in fact, are the structure of the book, beginning as brief if pointed and intelligent observations and continuing as longer entries as Nieve grows older. And there are gaps, which we can fill based on what we know and what we will know.

Through her diary, we follow Nieve from the small city of Cienfuegos to the mountains and finally to Havana. We watch her experience her parents' separation, their custody battle over her, her life with a brutal, alcoholic father, and finally a reunion with her mother. We see her grow as a young artist, and we watch as she continues to behave very much the independent in a society that demands conformity and acquiescence. We observe her friends gradually leave, and her acceptance of her isolation.

The diaries are important.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars It begins more or less interesting, but almost immediately ...
It begins more or less interesting, but almost immediately the author is lost in her own plot. There is no enough coherence in the story, specially in the second half. Not worthy.
Published 7 months ago by S. Soto
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Disappointment big time.
Published 7 months ago by Donna Duffy
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age During the Cuban Revolution
Everyone Leaves traces the Cuban revolution through the eyes of a young woman growing up in Cuba as part of the government-persecuted literati and arts community. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Katy Brown
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad story
I did not like this book at all. It was hard to follow and had no significant value. I think writing about the difficult times in the 70's in Cuba could have been better written.
Published 7 months ago by Kathy Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad, moving, engaging coming of age story of betrayal, survival, and...
Set in Cuba in the 1980s and 90s as the revolution eats its some of its children, this presumably autobiographical diary evokes the spirit of Jannette Walls with "The Glass... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Michael Replogle
3.0 out of 5 stars Maybe for teenagers?
Written as a series of diary entries by a young girl - over a period of time. Very depressing in it's depiction of Castro's Cuba and the sociological impact of some of their... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Readerrover
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull.
There is a general rule of thumb that if you make it (100-your age) pages into a book, and you aren't captivated, you should give up, given that life and the number of books you'll... Read more
Published 16 months ago by KH1
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
This book shares some of the struggles of living in Cuba. There is little freedom, food, security or privacy. No one can be trusted!
Published 17 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant young girl details her life in Cuba
There is a haunting quality to this book. It has a sensuality and a mood that quickly overtakes like
fragrant tropical flowers on a humid night. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Linda J. Schiller-Hanna
3.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
Nieve is a child trapped in Cuba during the communist revolution. She keeps a journal that (Kudos to the author) becomes more complex as Nieve grows from a child to a young... Read more
Published 21 months ago by book junkie
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More About the Author

Wendy Guerra was a child star in Cuba, working as a film and television actress and hosting a popular daily radio and TV news program for children, with elements of that experience inspiring the character Nieve in Everyone Leaves, which was based on the diaries she kept as a child and an adolescent. Everyone Leaves was awarded the first Bruguera Novel Prize on March 2, 2006, by the sole juror, acclaimed Catalan writer Eduardo Mendoza. When she returned from a visit to Spain to accept the award, she was removed from her post on the Cuban news program. Inspired by acclaimed diarist and novelist Anais Nin, Wendy sees her inspiration in her homeland and writes poetically of her existence as a Cuban.

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