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67 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death Be Not Proud, October 31, 2010
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This review is from: Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy (Hardcover)
Have you read Waiting for Snow in Havana? It is possible to enjoy this book by itself, but your reading of this book will be enriched by reading that one first.
Learning to Die in Miami has an overwhelming story. The book ends and the first thing the reader wants to say to the author is hurry up, write the next one. Don't stop now.
I recommend this book very highly.

So many suffer because of the evil doers of Cuba's current government. This book, by telling the story of one child so beautifully and clearly, gives the reader a tiny sense of the enormity of the crimes of these bastards.

The opening chapter grabs you immediately. Geometry tries to control what is not controllable, the emotions of a bereft child.
On you swim into the book. The writing is spectacular. All of it. I am so angry on one page. Then I am heartbroken. Suddenly, what is this? I am laughing. I am alone with no one to impress and I am laughing out loud. Then, just as suddenly I am swept away by something so endearing and touching, it's almost unbearable.
The author makes real and palpable what the child felt. How does a child, or anyone, make sense out of a world where love can make everything better, where superhuman acts of sacrifice exist, yet where prejudice or lack of caring and worse is just as easily a part of life?

This book is patterned similarly to Waiting for Snow in Havana. Each chapter has a theme and variations, then returns at its close bringing you home. POW!

This is an honest book. Not too many could write with such honesty about themselves.
In this book Carlos describes dying many times. But the implication is that to do so means each time, he came alive again. The suffering he embraces helps him to rise like a phoenix. His faith rescues him. The best revenge they say is living well. The last laugh. Go ahead, google Professor Eire and see his credentials and achievements.

The language is of the man of faith. The knowledge and wit is of the scholar and teacher.
The story is of a stolen childhood. It is about the need for the vault of oblivion. Thinking about your parents must be avoided, the first death. Tamp that memory down so it can't escape.

There is an elephant in the room. The reader can choose to ignore it. But it is there. The relentless evildoing of the bastards of the Cuban government. Useful idiots in Hollywood can visit with the tyrant and brag about how inspiring he is. Movie makers can make movies extolling the mass murderer, Che, or praising the disgustingly decrepit Cuban health care system in movies filled with lies. But the elephant is still in the room, the evil. And the tyrants themselves are laughing riotously at these fools who distort or lie about the evil.

I loved in the book Carlos's astonishment over the miracles of invention he finds in this country, the abundance everywhere, compared to what has been lost in Cuba. Castro is only in power for two years and already he has turned his country into a poverty stricken hellhole. Progress runs apace even in places off the beaten track here; at the same time, Cuba, a modern, advanced country with one of the highest standards of living in the world, is turned into worse than a third world country overnight by the communist tyrants.

The book is about choices. We have free will. Do we choose to do no harm, to try to make the world a better place? Or do we choose, and get glee from, harming others? It is about how we cope with what we are dealt.

This review could go on citing examples from the text to show what a gorgeous piece of writing is here. But I would rather say to you, read it for yourself, discover it all for yourself.

At bottom, for me, Learning to Die in Miami is an anthem for America, this great land of opportunity.
It is a love song to the United States of America, the greatest country on earth.
It oughta' win a Pulitzer.
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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 19, 2011 3:37:52 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 13, 2011 6:39:48 AM PDT]

Posted on Feb 2, 2011 2:15:56 PM PST
Tara says:
It is not a novel! It is an autobiography/memoir.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2011 4:30:55 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Feb 11, 2011 2:27:42 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2011 2:27:18 AM PST
honey says:
Oops. I mistakenly called it a novel. Sorry about that. It is so novel like in its writing. I corrected my review. Thank you.

Posted on Mar 4, 2011 10:17:10 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2011 3:26:02 PM PDT
NyiNya says:
I think the real "elephant in the room" is the fact that Americans cannot admit that the reason for all the anti-Castro propaganda is because he refused to become a tool of the U.S. government. Have you read anything at all about life under Batista? Batista's secret police, his terrorizing of the populace, the oligarchy that controlled Cuban workers with an iron fist? If Castro was a failure, at least he started out trying to improve the lot of the workers. A "decrepit health care system" is better than no health care at all. And again, if Cuba is a failure, it is because the U.S. stopped funding the Cuban economy the way we funded it when our tool, Batista was the dictator. If we had not supported Batista, the country would have failed sooner. Castro backed the wrong horse in his zealotry. I don't think he set out to be an "evildoer" -- and to portray any leader (other than the most egregious examples, Hitler, Stalin, Amin, anyone who was in charge of Liberia in the last few decades) as such is using cartoon thinking. And Operation Peter Pan was just another failed and ham-handed effort of the U.S. to prove how superior we are, morally, to those people down there, you know, the ones who are not quite white enough to take care of themselves. I do not, in any sense of the word, approve of or support Fidel Castro. However, his "evildoing" is just the same old evil-doing that went on when we were in charge, with one exception. The oligarchy moved to the U.S. and now tries to influence our government with the same self-centered thinking that kept Cuba impoverished.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2011 9:38:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 15, 2011 6:03:02 AM PDT
honey says:
Excerpts from posts on
To see the horrific pictures of Amaya, and compare them to how good Castro looked when he was released, you must do a search on until you reach August 4th.

Comparing dictators
By Alberto de la Cruz, on August 4, 2010, at 2:25 pm

(So many) seem... to have this uncontrollable desire to qualify any negative statements (made) about Fidel Castro by stating that he toppled the "US backed," "brutal," "mafia infested" dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. It has never really made any sense to me why (anyone) is under the impression that by mentioning Batista, it somehow mitigates or erases the atrocities the Castro regime has committed over the past half-century. Nevertheless, as nonsensical and ridiculous as it is, (people) seem.. intent on continuing to beat the Batista horse if only to assuage the guilt associated with their complicity.

Just for fun, let's play the comparing dictators game the media is so fond of and let's see how the two dictators match up. Since the topic of political prisoners in Cuba is on the forefront these days (when is it not?), why don't we compare the outcomes of two political prisoners that were captured, imprisoned, and released in each of the two dictatorships.

For the Batista era, the perfect "political prisoner" to use in our comparison would be none other than Fidel Castro himself. After his failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 with a gang of armed men, Castro was captured, put on trial, and sentenced to 15 years of prison.

(Here a picture is shown of a well fed and happy band of released prisoners triumphantly and jocularly parading out of the prison.)

Two years later, the Batista dictatorship granted Castro amnesty. He was released, without conditions, and without being forcibly exiled to another country.

Wow, after two years of rotting in the brutal dictator Batista's prison, Fidel and his Moncada attack cohorts do not any look worse for wear. As a matter of fact, they look quite sprightly.

Now let's look at a political prisoner during the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, who we should all remember toppled the brutal, US backed, mafia befriending Batista.

(Here is shown a man looking like a concentration camp victim ready to keel over. He was a wrestler and full bodied. But in this picture he is in a wheelchair because he could not walk.

Ariel Sigler Amaya was arrested during the Black Spring of 2003. He was sentenced to a 20-year prison sentence not for attacking a military installation with a group of men armed with guns, but for the much more heinous crime of publicly and peacefully stating he wanted liberty in Cuba.
Quite an appreciable difference between a political prisoner during Batista's dictatorship, and a political prisoner during Castro's dictatorship.

But we should all keep in mind and remember that Fidel Castro toppled the brutal, US backed, mafia infested Batista dictatorship.

Via National Review Online:

Let's see here: The U.S. either "blockades" or "embargoes" Cuba, depending on the source. Yet last year we transacted with Cuba:
* $710 million in trade
* sent $2 billion in remittances

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2011 10:44:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2011 3:27:00 PM PDT
NyiNya says:
I condemn both Castro and Batista, but it is obvious that it was not their actions that made them an ally or an was nothing more than America's knee jerk reaction to the so-called Red Menace that dictated our national policy. It is criminal for the U.S. to condemn one, embargoing his country and essentially destroying its economy, when it enriched the other and ensured his continued tyranny. If you can't see that, you are not looking. Fidel is not the devil, he is no better and no worse than Batista. Both were heinous in their actions. I praise neither, what I condemn is the hypocracy shown by the United States and the refusal of many people to face political facts that don't make them feel good.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 16, 2011 2:52:34 PM PDT
honey says:
Once again:

Let's see here: The U.S. either "blockades" or "embargoes" Cuba, depending on the source. Yet last year we transacted with Cuba:
* $710 million in trade
* sent $2 billion in remittances

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 16, 2011 3:21:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2011 3:34:14 PM PDT
NyiNya says:
Once again--you are incorrect. The legal force the United States has applied to Cuba is both officially and semantically an embargo, The word 'blockade' means something else altogether. Perhaps that is where you need to begin before commenting. A blockade is a physical, not legal, maneuver in which one country blocks by some physical means, usually ships, the ports of entry into another region or another country. An embargo, on the other hand, is an act or law that makes it illegal for one nation to trade in various ways with another. Clear? I merely used the correct term, and cannot imagine why this would offend. You may also want to check the act itself. It's available to see on the internet...and I am referring to the act that officially embargoes trade (but does not mention blockading in any way, shape or form) Cuban ports of entry. You can also try checking out the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton Act, Pub.L. 104-114, 110 Stat. 785, 22 U.S.C. §§ 6021-6091). This is a United States federal law which strengthens and continues the United States embargo (not blockade, which does not exist) against Cuba. The act extended the territorial application of the initial embargo (not imaginary blockade) to apply to foreign companies trading with Cuba, and penalized foreign companies allegedly "trafficking" in property formerly owned by U.S. citizens but expropriated by Cuba after the Cuban revolution. The act also covers property formerly owned by Cubans who have since become U.S. citizens. The act does not mention or impact any 'blockades' because there are none. Sending $710 million in humanitarian aid is hardly a drop in the bucket in terms of U.S. aid to foreign countries. If it keeps people alive, people who are just trying to earn their bread and raise their families, how can anyone, except the most politicized zealot, object? And that $2 billion in personal remittances...if I had family there, relatives or friends, whom I knew were hungry, or needed clothing or shelter or anything else, I would certainly send them whatever aid I could. Thank the Cuban community for their kindness and generosity, don't blame the U.S. Government. I have not, by the way, checked the figures you provide and hope they are more accurate than your misapprehension that 'embargo' and 'blockade' were synomyns wielded for political purpose. Perhaps these facts have helped you. If not, I will be glad to come forth with another dose of reality. Once again.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 16, 2011 10:27:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 16, 2011 10:34:37 PM PDT
honey says:
Why do I bother?
I didn't call anything a blockade. The NR post spoke about others who use such language.
For one thing the entire world trades with Cuba and the U.S. provides more medical supplies and food to Cuba than the entire world put together.
Some embargo.
So how is it that all Cuban people don't get a bandaid, or decent food with all of this coming into the country? For two reasons, neither having to do with any "embargo".
1. All things coming in to Cuba are for the tyrants and their henchmen, their cronies. This is important for the Castros because a hungry population has to spend energy and time scrounging for food and doesn't have energy and time for fighting for freedom. While the Castros have their billions stashed away, Cuban children are not allowed milk after a certain age.
2. Communism doesn't work.
Since the Castros deliberately allow no internet, no books, no libraries, no education, and nothing unless it is consistent with their propaganda and since anyone who is not thrilled about all of this and says so goes to prison, why are you concerned about defending this regime in Cuba or attacking America?
An American citizen, Gross, was someone who was interested in the Castros and thought he had a happy rapport with them. So he took Raul's word for it that Cubans were now allowed to have cell phones. He has been going to Cuba for years and doing charitable work there. This time he went too far. He believed Raul and decided to do a good deed. Since the phones are too expensive for Cubans on their less than $20 a month "salaries", he decided to bring lots of cell phones so ordinary Cubans could have them for free. So, after being held for many months and finally getting a closed trial, he is now serving a 15 year prison sentence for being a "CIA" agent.
Where is your anger at all the money, homes and belongings of ordinary Cubans stolen by Che and the Castros?
I would love to see some disgust about all those in prison in Cuba just for saying they want the people to have liberty. Selective indignation is very tiresome.
Anyway, I'm done here.
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