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An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba Paperback – November 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A professor at the University of Michigan, Behar seeks a better understanding of her roots and of the Jewish experience in her native Cuba. Traversing the island, Behar becomes a confidante to myriad Jewish strangers. Through one-on-one interviews and black-and-white images taken by her photographer, Humberto Mayol, she uncovers the diasporic thread that connects Cuban Jews. Familial stories of wandering beginning in the 1920s tell of displaced Polish and German Jews—escapees from anti-Semitism and Auschwitz—opening mom-and-pop shops in La Habana Vieja, becoming peddlers, replacing Yiddish with Spanish and settling into Latino life only to be uprooted within decades. An estimated 16,500 Jews lived in Cuba in the late 1950s, when a mass exodus to Miami and New York took place—a reaction to Castro's budding communist revolution. This diligent recounting and pictorial collage of interviews with adolescents, the aging, the impoverished and the political by Behar preserves in memory the people and places that make up Cuba's Jewish story. (Nov.)
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Review

"Traversing the island, Behar becomes a confidante to a myriad of Jewish strangers. Through one-on-one interviews and black-and-white images taken by her photographer, Humberto Mayol, she uncovers the diasporic thread that connects Cuban Jews....This diligent recounting and pictorial collage of interviews with adolescents, the aging, the impoverished and the political by Behar preserves in memory the people and places that make up Cuba's Jewish story."
(Publishers Weekly)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press; 10.2.2007 edition edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813545005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813545004
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.7 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Warren I. Lichtenberg on August 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Ruth Behar has written an insightful book about the Jews of Cuba and personal memories of the island passed down to her from family members who left Cuba after Fidel Castro's revolution. Although Dr. Behar was only a child when she left Cuba with her family and had no personal memories of the events that happend during her childhood, her many trips to Cuba as an anthropologist have allowed her to recreate that period of history and update it to the current time. Her emotional interviews with Jews still living in Cuba have allowed her to document how Jewish lives and the practice of Judaism have evolved through three time periods; 1)Prior to the revolution, 2) During Cuba's officially atheistic period, 1959-1992, and 3) During its secular period, 1992 to the present. Dr. Behar also discribes the influence of American Jewish tourists and organizations which provide both humanitarian aid and funds for the reconstruction and operation of synagogues and cemeteries in various Jewish communities throughout Cuba.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a touching and lyrical account that mixes memoir with ethnography in ways that enrich both. A pleasure to read. Those who want to see how an anthropologist can also reveal something of herself as she reveals others would do well to read this book
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A must read read for anyone Jewish who is planning on traveling in Cuba in the near future. Fascinating information, accounts, and stories about the culture, history of Jews in Cuba, particular individuals of significance, photos, their roles in present day jewish culture today. Paints a colorful picture of Cuban way of life.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The way the book is written was quite a surprise. The interviews carried out by Ms. Behar were warm, compassionate, joyful, touching. I come from Cuban descent from a family that apparently originated in the Canary Islands with a Jewish background. After reading this book, I am anxious to explore my background. Ms. Behar has awakened in me a feeling of belonging that is hard to describe. Reading "An Island Called Home" has been a wonderful experience. I will certainly read more books by this great author, and I hope she keeps them coming.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A hegira worth reading which will break your heart while at the same time give you a history of a people who have either gone into exile a second time or chose to remain in an island where most members of their family have abandoned. Excellent chronicle of Ruth Behar's return to the island that she left as a child. Thank you for allowing us who thirst for a visit to the island where we were born and only have a distant recollection of what we left behind.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
OK for a history but not interesting enough to be a "good read." Lots of photos were helpful. Lacked suspense or a story line that's interesting.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm reading this for a book club and am about 3/4 of the way through, so perhaps I'll change my mind. For now, though, I have to say I'm finding it a bit disjointed. There are some interesting vignettes in it about the Jewish community in Cuba. It just doesn't seem to have any real cohesion. Not terrible, just not a great read.
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Having just returned from Cuba I found this book to be very helpful. It is a combination of a photographic essay as well as a journal or the author's travels and reminiscents if life in Cuba.
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