Weekly Meeting: Dreaming In Cuban

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Dreaming in Cuban

Growing up in Miami among Cuban refugees and Cuban Americans skewed my point of view on what life was like in Cuba.  There is a romanticism to Pre-Revolution Cuba.  Reading Dreaming in Cuban helped me see a variety of perspectives on life before the revolution and life after, especially in the early years of Castro’s Cuba.

Challenges:

  • Book Lust Challenge

What You Should Know:

  • It has multiple points of view and covers about 10 years in the 1970s and 80s
  • Geographically focuses on Cuba and New York City, but it does take the reader to Miami for a bit.
  • This, in my opinion, fits into the Magical Realism genre.  Basically, magic exists, but this story is not about the magic nor does it drive the plot.  Characters share connections, religious rites have a touch of magic involved, etc.

Discussion:

I found a couple of discussion guides so I picked 2 questions to answer.

1- Celia writes letters to Gustavo throughout the novel. What role do these letters play and why does Celia continue to write him long after seeing him?

The letters are not a major part of the story, but almost show Celia in her own words, but outside of her head.  They are part diary and part connection to the dream of something better.  Gustavo is the man she loved before she married her husband.  He left her for Spain.  The letters go unsent and, thus, unanswered.  He never comes back for her, yet she writes these letters.  Since she is a narrator, we are in her head and we see through her eyes.  The letters are different, they are what she is willing to share on paper.

As a blogger, I understand the distinction.  You are not in my head, but you are reading my words.  It gives you access to my thoughts, but through the filter of what can and should be said to others.  The letters, like this blog, can serve to connect me to others who may not even be there.  I write knowing someone could possibly read these words, but there is no guarantee that anyone is.

2- Explain the role that the Yoruban religion and its santeras play in the novel, including some of the rites explained in different chapters.

This is also part of the magical realism of the novel.  Ghosts of fathers talk to their daughters.  A grandmother and granddaughter share a telepathic link.  A mentally unstable woman (because of syphilis) enters into Yoruban religion rites only to see her decline speed up.  She doesn’t improve until she dies and then her body almost blooms.  For me religion has always been the way people try to control and explain what can’t be controlled or explained.  As science does more explaining, religion does more controlling.  Religion in this case, even the Yoruban ones, are often the characters re-claiming control over themselves and their lives in the chaos.

Who Will Like:

  • If you like magical realism novels (think Alice Hoffman), you will enjoy it.
  • If you like seeing the impact of history on real people, you may enjoy it.
  • If you like Latino and Cuban history/stories, you will enjoy it.

Other Things Read:

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