Cristina Garcia’s 1993 novel Dreaming in Cuban shows life under Fidel Castro’s rule from the point of view of three generations of strong women.
The del Pino family is led by Celia, who spends her last days patrolling the Cuban seas from any attacks from foreign invaders while memories of her past invade her mind. Celia has two daughters – Felicia, who faces abuse by her husband, and Lourdes, who goes to New York City and runs a successful business. Lourdes has a daughter, Pilar, who as a child of the late 1970s, rebels against her mother and yearns to go back to Cuba.
Occasionally, a male voice – such as Ivanito, Felicia’s son, gets a few pages – but this story is clearly about the women.
Garcia writes wonderfully descriptive passages, including the beginning of the book when Celia is out by the sea and sees her husband: “His blue eyes are like lasers in the night. The beams bounce off his fingernails, five hard blue shields. They scan the beach, illuminating shells and sleeping gulls, then focus on her.” The book also has some great observations about life. “Everything is mixed up, as if parts of me are turning in different directions at once,” Ivanito says.
But the book is challenging to read. The story is told in fragments, jumping back and forth in time and from narrator to narrator and from first person to third person. The mood of the book is mostly heavy – especially Felicia’s passages, so it’s a relief when Pilar comes along in with her wry observations or when Celia judges family disputes as head of the People’s Court. But, much of the time, the book drags because it doesn’t have a linear storyline that keeps the reader riveted.
If you like books with great description, Dreaming in Cuban is something you might enjoy. But it may be a frustrating read for those who prefer a strong plot.
Cristina García has written numerous novels, including The Lady Matador’s Hotel and, most recently, the young adult novel, Dreams of Significant Girls. Like the character Pilar, she grew up in New York City and attended Barnard College.
Source: I checked this book out of the library.
Note: This book is part of the series of classic books by Latina authors. Next up: Lorraine López’s The Realm of Hungry Spirits.