Havana Dreams: A Story of a Cuban Family
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A fascinating, powerfully evocative story of four generations of Cuban women, through whose lives the author illuminates a vivid picture--both personal and historical--of Cuba in our century.
"When I want to read a culture," writes Wendy Gimbel in her prologue, "I listen to stories about families, sensing in their contours the substance of larger mysteries." And certainly in the Revuelta family she has found a source of both mystery and revelation.
At its center is Naty: born in 1925, educated in the United States, a socialite during the Batista era, who after marriage to a prominent doctor and the birth of a daughter became intoxicated with Castro and his revolution (here, published for the first time, are the letters they exchanged while he was in jail). Though her husband and daughter immigrated to the United States after Castro's victory, Naty remained in Cuba to raise her second child, Castro's unacknowledged daughter, only to be ultimately confronted by his dismissive, withering judgment: "Naty missed the train." Her two daughters, one of whom settles well into life in America, while the other never recovers from her father's intransigent repudiation of her; her granddaughter, who Naty desperately believes will return to Cuba when--not if--Castro is removed from the island; and her mother, an unregenerate reactionary: these are the lives that complete this extraordinary story.
Each of the women is irrevocably marked with a part of the island's terrible and poignant tale, and Wendy Gimbel has created a rich and intense narrative of their lives and times. Havana Dreams leaves us with an indelible impression of familial obligation and illicit love; of the heady but doomed romanticism of revolution; and of the profound consequences of Cuba's contemporary history for the ordinary and most intimate lives of its people.
From the Hardcover edition.
schemes of the Spanish conquistadors and his own measured desire for adventure. Still, there were similarities, points of connection. Ever since Columbus’s voyage, ambitious young men, evading the narrow fate that awaited them at home, had bailed out of small towns in Europe and headed across the ocean to the Americas. Growing up in his parents’ severe Methodist household, Herbert felt claustrophobic. His parents, Ralph and Selina Clews, must have found their son’s restlessness troubling, an
testing her patience. She says, “After Fidel became my lover, I began to distance myself from Orlando. I told him that I didn’t want to leave him, but that I couldn’t share his bed. Once I had a sexual connection to Fidel, I had no alternative but to retreat from my husband.” Still, I ask her: “Who did Orlando believe was the father of your expected child?” If the possibility existed that it was Orlando, I suggest, then she hadn’t made such a clean break. Now I’ve angered her. A reputation as a
remote expression in her large brown eyes. There was something unmoving in her face, as though a magician had put a spell on her. She had moved to a run-down flat across the street from her mother’s house, a neighborhood where everyone thought of her as her father’s daughter. Far away, in the land of fairy tales, the king’s beloved daughter inherits the kingdom and lives happily ever after with her prince. But Alina was the ruler’s illegitimate child: Fidel never even introduced her to his
to see if I was right—I traveled to Sparksburg, Illinois, the town where she lives with her second husband, Ted, and her son, Peter. An energetic woman in her late forties, Nina has the large, generous nature of someone favored by good fortune—someone wise enough to know it might have been otherwise. Although her shining black hair and dark almond eyes reflect her ancestry, Nina never thinks about Cuba, and would never return, even for a visit. Whether Fidel Castro remains there or not is a
it. Nothing mattered but the moments I had with him. My father had me followed,” Nina continued. “He didn’t believe that I was at the drawing center every evening. Who goes to art classes when it’s almost midnight? “But I couldn’t function without this difficult, selfish man. Nothing had a reality but the time we had together. I’d go to a restaurant and order what he wanted, not what I liked, just to feel close to him. It made me understand my mother, and how she was willing to gamble everything