I posted this review on my blog Quelle's Thoughts as part of my 25 Books Every Latina Should Read project: http://anoldfashionedgirl.blogspot.com/2010/05/25-books-latinas-should-read-dreaming.html
Just one look at the cover and the title and I was hooked. Out of the 25 Books Latinas Should Read list, Dreaming in Cuban was the one I wanted to read first. Cristina Garcia blends poetry with prose in this story of a Cuban family, splintered by the Cuban revolution. There is the matriarch Celia who finds happiness in her melancholy life through the revolution and in her adoration of El Lider (Fidel Castro) as well as the hope that her rebellious granddaughter Pilar provides her for her family. The patriarch, Jorge, is a ghost that haunts the entirety of the novel. Their daughters Lourdes and Felicia deal with their own distinct madness and Javier seems a shadow in comparison to the other family members. Then there is Pilar. She's the Cuban-born, Brooklyn-raised rebel granddaughter that seems to be the only one that sees everything clearly.
If you are looking for a book with a linear, easy-to-follow plot then look elsewhere. Garcia's writing is difficult to grasp in the way a good poem takes extra effort to understand. We weave in and out of time and we are never really sure where we are, the chapter headings are misleading. The narration goes from first person to third person often. Sometimes we are in Pilar's head and other times we are watching Celia at a distance or listening in on a conversation between Lourdes and her father Jorge. The only thing that anchors us in the story is the group of well-defined and interesting characters.
Out of all the groups of Caribbean diaspora, Cuban-Americans seem to be the most distant from their homeland. Unlike others who could easily visit or move back to their original country, Cubans remain exiled from Cuba and look upon the politics of Cuba with a discerning and judgemental eye. There is a strong intrinsic tie between the Caribbean-born and their country. I know this from experience as my mother is from the Dominican Republic and although she hasn't lived there in 30 years, and hasn't even visited in over 10, she still talks about the country as though she was just there. Her homeland will never leave her. This kind of connection is crucial for good Caribbean fiction and Garcia captures that in Dreaming in Cuban. For example, Lourdes hates Cuban politics and secretly wants to kill El Lider. She relishes in the freedom of the capitalism and democracy of the US. Yet she is drawn back to her homeland, to see her mother, to bring her daughter there, to reconnect with the ghost of her father. However much she hates what Cuba has become, the Cuba of her childhood is still very much a part of her. Dreaming in Cuban gets at the core of what it means to be from the Caribbean through her magical and lyrical prose. This is a must read for sure.