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Adios, Happy Homeland Paperback – August 2, 2011
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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"Arrestingly brilliant."Junot Diaz (interview with The Rumpus)
"Dazzling . . . As bold in its execution as in its conception . . . It is rare enough for an American writer to muster the energy to construct such an intricate work; it is unthinkably rarer for such formal intricacies to serve some aesthetic or philosphical purpose beyong themselves. But this is precisely the case with Adios, Happy Homeland! Menendez's fictions are never content merely to display their finely wrought strangeness. Almost every text 'collected' here would, considered on their own, outshine in comparison the majority of American short fiction; take together, the effect is vertiginously powerful. . . . An effortless, balletic braiding of the subjective and the objective." The National
"Ana Menendez's fictionher stories, even when disguised as philosophy or poetry or journalism or tongue-in-cheek humorare always more imaginative, vital, and puzzling than expected . . . Excellent examples of contemporary short fiction at its finest . . . remarkably diverse . . . Menendez's writing is crystal clear. She has both the courage and the vitality to evoke many diverse voices in such a convincing way. It's a joy to read such uncluttered, unabashed, and vivd prose, and to penetrate more deeply into contemporary Cuba's still unrevealed heart."The Rumpus
"A thought-provoking, humorous, sometimes dizzying collection . . . [with] graceful, poignant lyricism . . . A brilliant and inventive work: fractured, layered storytelling conveys the unsettling experience and shifting sense of indentity that exile brings."The Huffington Post
"Ana Menendez lets her imagination soar with this nonlinear, unpredictable, and challenging book. . . . Toys with conventional notions of time, space, and casuality. . . . She hooks you, her beginnings are often flawless. . . . Radiates deep affection for [Cuba]." The Miami Herald
"Can only be described one way: enthralling . . . Menendez has invented an ingenious collection. . . . Fabulous . . . incredibly quirky and endlessly enjoyable . . . A refreshing piece of modern literature . . . A great perspective on the wild imaginations that we develop."Examiner.com
Everywhere you turn in Adios, Happy Homeland! you find a beautiful meld of tradition and modernism, an admirable mastery of irony, and a lyrical deposition on exile and homecoming. Take this balloon ride across the Carib-Cubano-Americano sea and landscape and you will relish the view."Alan Cheuse
A deft, playful collection . . . Revitalizing . . . Part love song to Cuban literature and lore, part Borgesian encyclopedia of the subspecies of flight, part questioning of the very conditions of fiction-makingand all charming.”Kirkus Reviews
"[Menendez] begins with a blend of Cuban history, myths, and tales of escape from the island, and adds irony and humor to create linked stories full of hope, struggles to transcend our earthly ties, and longing to return to what one hopes to flee. She plays with reality as though it were a puzzle, mixing and rearranging the pieces. . . . Menendez's voice is a vital force in Latino literature, brimming with a distinctive magical realism woven out of both traditional and modern elements of the everday wiorld." Booklist
Innovative . . . A necessary purchase for Cuban American collections.”Library Journal
"Never have I had so many expectationsof both literature and peopleoverturned in one book. . . . Adios, Happy Homeland! tears apart the flat picture of Latin America and the Caribbean that has been painted over the past few decades. . . . One of the most honest books I have ever encountered . . . Strange and wonderful . . . What emerges from the tangle of narratives that makes up Adios, Happy Homeland! is a meditation on the ways that literature and identity intersect. . . . An act of literary destruction . . . Menendez pulls the carpet out from under us, and we must start seeing the world afresh."New World Reviews
About the Author
Since 1991 Ana has worked as a journalist in the United States and abroad, most recently as a prize-winning columnist for The Miami Herald. As a reporter, she has written about Cuba, Haiti, Kashmir, Afghanistan, and India, where she was based for three years.
Her work has appeared in Vogue, Bomb, Poets & Writers, and Gourmet, and has been included in anthologies such as Cubanisimo! and American Food Writing. A former Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, she now lives in Maastricht and Miami.
Visit Ana's website at anamenendezonline.com
Top customer reviews
"In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd" "Adios" weaves tales of Cuba and those Cubans who now make their home in America. Each story holds the reader's attention and creates a tension that is realized as the last page is turned. Her language continues to reveal each character's emotions, while painting a vivid picture of their lives.
I'm afraid this book that you recommended did not have the same effect on me that it had on you. Thus, I can only give it three stars. But, hey, that will activate the "most helpful first" button at long last, and your review is the most helpful! My review will probably be seen as the least helpful, but I will accept that judgement with no complaints.
Adios, Happy Homeland so confused me at first that I had to go read your review again to make some sense of what I was reading. (First, though, I went to Ms. Menendez's author's page to make sure she was not actually a German Shepherd who wrote books! It turned out she was not a German Shepherd and she did not have an author's page.) After reading the book for a while, I eventually did find some stories I liked. Both were train stories. One was the story of the woman returning home from work, when her train hit someone on the tracks attempting suicide. (And succeeding at it very well!) The other was the story about the woman who could find no conductor on a train that just kept going and going and going. . . where to, no one knew. I tended to favor the stories that seemed to be a heavy mix of reality and dreams, if not nightmares.
Yet, even though there was much to like, there was much more I did not understand, and much more that made me happy the book was not bigger. Maybe one day I'll read it again. It strikes me as one that might be best read before going to sleep. I wonder if it would not lead to strange dreams, so strange that you would feel compelled to write them down as soon as you woke up...if you remembered them, of course . . . and you did not wake up in Cuba . . . to the realization that your life as you knew it was actually a dream . . . and what you thought was a dream was actually your life.
Godspeed As Always,
Ostensibly, the book is collection of work by Cuban poets gathered by an Irish expatriate who came to the island as a child. All the authors, of course, are fictional, but the fiction provides a framework for the book's extraordinary range. And no matter what voice she chooses, Menéndez can write. Here, from the beginning of the book, is a six-year-old boy woken by his mother to set out on a long trip: "Children are the slaves of other voices. They have not yet mastered the first person singular and are always at the blunt end of someone else's dream." This story, "Cojimar," and the two that follow her are obviously based on the 1999 story of Elián González, the sole survivor of an escape by sea from Cuba, who was eventually repatriated by the US authorities. But Menéndez shies from telling the story straight: the first tale is suspended somewhere between the uncomprehending wonder of the child and the almost mystical fears of an old fisherman. The second is a comedy set in an officeful of Miami expatriates engaged in milking the US Government. The third is a Cuban press-release.
This technique of approaching a subject from different angles and in wildly differing styles is central to the author's method. Few of the other pieces can be tied down so clearly to an historical event. She has mostly chosen to occupy the mind of the exile as a psychic space, dreaming alternately of escape and return. Images of transport abound: flight, wings, parachutes, balloons; boats, winds, and the call of the sea; grand railroad terminals, and trains speeding through darkness that never reach their destination. The images collide in the ending to the first story, a surreal nightmare of an old man hunted by killers in a station whose roof opens to the firmament: "With a great concussion of air, the train swept into the station, bearing with it the smell of the sea." Another old person a couple of stories later unspools her dying life to the moment of her birth in a pristine Cuba: "Nameless now she goes, tearing stars into time's shroud, cleansed and purified for the journey's return."
Menéndez' evocative surrealism is so quotable, but her style keeps changing. Some of her most effective stories are quite realistic and barely connected to the Cuban theme at all. In "Three Betrayals," an ordinary divorce case becomes an allegory of loss. In "The Express," a professor commuting home from another city starts to reevaluate her life when the train hits a suicide: "And now? Now she was whole, complete, content. She breathed and loved. She'd banished danger; but never again would she be invited to dance on its electric rim." Ana Menéndez certainly knows the electric rim, but she writes from a center of completeness. Despite her verbal wizardry -- in Spanish as well as English, using the very act of translation as another metaphor -- what I keep coming back to are the deeply-rooted passages that touch me again with their beauty, wonder, or sorrow. Reading this is an experience like no other.