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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy Paperback – January 13, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Metaphors matter to me, especially perfect ones," Yale historian Eire writes in this beautifully fashioned memoir, as he recounts one of many wonderfully vibrant stories from his boyhood in 1950s Havana. As imaginatively wrought as the finest piece of fiction, the book abounds with magical interpretations of ordinary boyhood events-playing in a friend's backyard is like a perilous journey through the jungle; setting off firecrackers becomes a lyrical, cosmic opera; a child's birthday party turns into a phantasmagoria of American pop cultural icons. Taking his cue from his father, a man with "a very fertile, nearly inexhaustible imagination, totally dedicated to inventing past lives," Eire looks beyond the literal to see the mythological themes inherent in the epic struggle for identity that each of our lives represents. Into this fantastic idyll comes Castro-"Beelzebub, Herod, and the Seven-Headed Beast of the Apocalypse rolled into one"-overthrowing the Batista regime at the very end of 1958 and sweeping away everything that the author holds dear. A world that had been bursting with complicated, colorful meaning is replaced with the monotony of Castro's rhetoric and terrorizing "reform." Symbols of Jesus that had once provided spiritual enlightenment by popping up in the author's premonitions and dreams were now literally being demolished and destroyed by a government that has outlawed religion. The final cataclysm comes when Eire and his brother, still young boys, are shipped off to the United States to seek safety and a better life (another paradise, perhaps). They never see their father again.As painful as Eire's journey has been, his ability to see tragedy and suffering as a constant source of redemption is what makes this book so powerful. Where his father believed that we live many lives in different bodies, Eire sees his own life as a series of deaths within the same body. "Dying can be beautiful," he writes, "And waking up is even more beautiful. Even when the world has changed." Taking his cue from his beloved Jesus, the author believes that we repeatedly die for our sins and are reborn into a new awareness of paradise. How fortunate for readers, then, that by way of Eire's "confessions," they too will be able to renew their souls through his transcendent words.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

At the start of the nineteen-sixties, an operation called Pedro Pan flew more than fourteen thousand Cuban children out of the country, without their parents, and deposited them in Miami. Eire, now a professor of history and religion at Yale, was one of them. His deeply moving memoir describes his life before Castro, among the aristocracy of old Cuba—his father, a judge, believed himself to be the reincarnation of Louis XVI—and, later, in America, where he turned from a child of privilege into a Lost Boy. Eire's tone is so urgent and so vividly personal (he is even nostalgic about Havana's beautiful blue clouds of DDT) that his unsparing indictments of practically everyone concerned, including himself, seem all the more remarkable.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (December 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743246411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743246415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (268 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

124 of 127 people found the following review helpful By benjamin on July 26, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book may very well be the most moving book that I will end up reading this year. Some of that no doubt has to do with learning a bit about my own Cuban heritage (mi abuela es de Cuba), but it also has to do with reading an author of uncommon grace and depth, who lacks neither humor nor bitterness in remembering and longing for his abruptly ended childhood. You can't help but to get misty eyed in the midst of your laughter; Eire lets the reader feel in ways that most authors can, at their best, only dream of.

It is rare that an author can combine multiple streams of thought into a [raging] river that contains both depth and complexity, but Eire appears to be one such author, combining history, memoir, theology and philosophy into a thick narrative about his childhood exile from Cuba. He is endowed with a tremendous sense of the poetic; he writes sensuously of Cuban nights before the Revolution, the perplexities of childhood (some experience really are universal) and the uneasiness of Cuba after Castro seized power.

Eire is not without bitterness, either, as he reflects upon his exile and the difficulties it caused his family. He never saw his father again after he left Cuba, but his father also chose to not come over to the US with his mother; the mockery and sarcasm that Eire directs towards his father is understandable given the relational distance that his father placed within the relationship.

The real highlight of the book, however, is Eire's ability to evoke emotion from the reader as he recalls his childhood. Reading his memories of Roman Catholic masses and schools is absolutely side splitting; the mixture of memory and imagination is written in a stream-of-consciousness style that brings to light the subjective reality of various events.
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79 of 82 people found the following review helpful By J. Suarez on January 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
We hear the figure of six million dead Jews in the Hollocaust and we can't grasp it. We read Ann Frank and we weep. Sometimes tragedies that overwhelm us in macroeconomic terms, become reality when viewed through the eyes of one individual. Carlos Eire has been able to do this.

Like Mr. Eire I grew up in Havana in the 50's. I too was a Pedro Pan in the 60's. I too came without a penny and have been able to make my way in this wonderful new land. Each of his "facts" and memories correspond to my facts and memories of the same period. The book is as true to life as it can be for me and a great refresher for others who may have lived through similar times. For those not familiar with this period, the careful details he enumerates bring to life a society that has been gone for half a century. I commend the author on this great work.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Marsella on February 13, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carlos Eire has created a memorable record of his childhood in Havana writng beautifully of his lovely surroundings populated by colorful characters, many of them related to him. The shadow of impending doom in the shape of Fidel's revolution slowly but relentlessly advances over this idylic scene and ultimately results in his secure world and his family being torn apart.
This book brilliantly combines a distinctly Cuban coming of age tale with a view into Cuba at the time of the revolution as experienced through the eyes of a comfortable middle class child.
Eire's writing is so evocative of the feelings he associates with the various episodes in his early life that the reader is drawn into his experience in a very visceral way.
I thought this book was beautifully written and at times emotionally wrenching. A wonderful eye-opening read . Highest reccomendation.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By the wizard of uz on November 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Carlos Eire's ironic yet desperately needful alteration of St. Jerome's prayer:
" Have mercy on me, Lord, I am a Cuban. "
Hundreds of books have been written about the horrors inflicted on the Cuban people by Castro, or to call him by the official title he bestowed upon himself, in a characteristic moment of humility, " The Maximum Leader. "
Some have been written by survivors of Casro's prison camps, or by other Cubans, who nowdays are as bewildered as they are angered when some Hollywood Celeb--or some other famous twit-- makes a trip to Havana to shoot the breeze with Fidel. (Pol Pot and Nero being unavailable) And come back singing his praises.
For Carlos Eire, his reawakening came in the aftermath of the Elian Gonzales affair. Carlos knew the kid was being sent back to hell by a sleazy administration under the eyes of a largely uncaring American public.
Eire had done well for himself. A happily married family man and a respected professor at Yale, he thought he had put his Cuban past behind him, that it was no longer was capable of hurting him.
He was wrong. As he admitted on T.V., He became wildly frantic and was unable to know a moment's peace until he finished writing his story, the confessions of a boy growing up in Havana at the time of Castro's takeover.
For a hurriedly written memoir, this is a magnificent masterpiece. More poignant than the graphic documentations of tortured prisoners.
Eire is truly an amazing writer. He weaves vivid imagery and dark humor into a fast paced, fascinating tale. As he states in his preamble: " This is not a work of fiction. But the author would like it to be. "
This is a Greek tragedy set in the Caribbean.
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