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Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys Hardcover – April 24, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“You leave home to find home.” University of Michigan anthropology professor Behar says she specializes in “homesickness” as she relates her own Jewish family immigration story to the universal search for roots. She was born in Cuba in the 1960s to an Ashkenazi mother and a Sephardic father; after the revolution, the family went to Israel; then, after a year, they left for New York. Her father resists her extended education and never speaks to her after she marries a non-Jew. The history behind her personal journey will grab readers as she travels back to Cuba, to Israel, to Poland, and also back to Spain, where Jews were driven out in 1492 and where now communication on the Internet brings descendants together in a reunion in the city of Bejar. All those intrigued by their ancestral story will be moved by the personal quest and also by how—with the help of computers as well as the kindness of strangers—the lost can find their way home. --Hazel Rochman

Review

"Ruth Behar takes us deep into geographies she has charted, transcending anthropological reportage and finding the poetry that is there not only in the places she has mapped but also in history. She has written an observant and surprisingly compassionate book, full of warmth. I enjoyed reading every page; it is full of wisdom and devastating sincerity."
(Nilo Cruz, author of Anna in the Tropics, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama)

"'Travelers are those who go elsewhere because they want to . . . Immigrants are those who go elsewhere because they have to.' Ruth Behar's own story is one of being both the reluctant immigrant and the enthusiastic traveler, and finally, perhaps to appease both legacies, 'an anthropologist who specializes in homesickness.' Behar admits Spanish is her mother tongue, and yet she is a master craftsperson in her father tongue, English. As always, her exquisite stories leave me astonished, amused, exhilarated, illuminated, and forever transformed."
(Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street)

"Traveling Heavy speaks to issues—the impact of religion on social identity, the cultural and linguistic discomforts of immigration, the social tensions found in multicultural and multigenerational families, the texture of relations between parents and children—that define our humanity. What's more, Ruth Behar skillfully weaves these complex issues into a gripping story of personal challenge and growth. Her artful memoir is filled with grace."
(Paul Stoller, author of The Power of the Between: An Anthropological Odyssey)

"Ruth Behar graces us with her provocative and enchanting memoir of travel and self discovery: as a mother, as a writer, as an anthropologist, and as a child of exile and homecomings. Traveling Heavy is a memoir of wonder from one of the leading Latina artists of the U.S.A."
(Marjorie Agosin, author of At the Threshold of Memory: New & Selected Poems)

“A moving story of finding oneself through a lifetime of travel, this will be a terrific addition to memoir and Judaica collections.”
(Olga Wise Library Journal)

“A heartfelt witness to the changing political and emotional landscape of the Cuban-American experience.”
(Kirkus Reviews)

“All those intrigued by their ancestral story will be moved by the personal quest and also by how—with the help of computers as well as the kindness of strangers—the lost can find their way home.”
(Hazel Rochman Booklist)

"Traveling Heavy is the product of a poetic mind, and the work itself can be regarded as prose poetry. Behar has not recovered from her ‘interrupted childhood’ in Havana, and it is this tragedy that makes her who she is, that shapes the ghosts she pursues, that has guided her steps as a subjective anthropologist; and that is able to offer the reader a smorgasbord of literary delights."
(Marion Fischel The Jerusalem Post 2014-03-16)

“So much of Ruth Behar’s life story resonates with me. My mother is Cuban, and to paraphrase Winston Churchill, I may be half Cuban and half American, but there are so many times I feel completely Cuban. When I finally went to Cuba last fall, it was like returning to a place to which I had never been. I am the Cubana that Ruth Behar describes in her fascinating new memoir, Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in Between Journeys,’ one that is part of an ‘intensely diasporic people.’”
(Judy Bolton-Fasman Boston Globe)

“In writing, the distance between the world and the self collapses, and the latter becomes a medium through which the former can be understood; the world becomes a function of the self. Thus, writing becomes the solution to the search for identity. Like Kafka, Behar takes part in self-creation. Through the act of composing a memoir about her search, she writes t  Add  he lost homeland and the lost self into existence.”
(Jane Shmidt Bookslut)

“Ruth Behar’s latest work, Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys, is a book filled with grace; it is anthropologically contoured text that has legs.  It has breadth, for its compelling narratives will attract a diverse audience of readers who will pour through the pages, delighting in the poignant details underscored by Behar’s life as a person who travels with burdens of past and present.  It also has depth, for Traveling Heavy is a book that will remain open to the world, a work that will be savored for many years to come.”
(Paul Stoller Anthropological Research)

“Cuban-American anthropologist Ruth Behar avoids the polarizing politics so typical of Cuban exiles to write an affecting memoir about how notions of home and displacement in relation to the Cuban revolution have shaped her life, and describes the experiences of finding her 'own' Cuba, a version of the island that differs from that of her parents and their generation of exiles. Behar’s memoir will be of particular interest to Jewish readers, as she recounts her family’s search for safety and home in Cuba and the changing identity of Cuba’s own Jewish community over the years since the revolution.”
(Julie Schwietert Collazo The Guardian)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (April 24, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822354675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822354673
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The history was very interesting. I generally don't read memoirs. The personal story was slow. The Jewish history was very enlightening.
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By A Boyle on October 17, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Weaving personal history and anthropology together, Ruth Behar captures the essence of cubanismo. It was a pleasure to read this book.
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