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Set in Havana, Brooklyn, and the Cuban seaside in the 1970s, Dreaming in Cuban unravels the lives and fortunes of four women of the colorful Del Pino family. Celia is the aging matriarch faithful to Fidel . . . Felicia is her mad (and possibly murderous) daughter . . . Lourdes, her other child, is a capitalist counterrevolutionary . . . and her daughter, Pilar, is an artistic punk filled with impossible Cuban dreams.
“MARVELOUS . . . A JEWEL OF A NOVEL . . .
Dreaming in Cuban is beautifully written in language that is by turns languid and sensual, curt and surprising. Like Louise Erdrich, whose crystalline language is distilled of images new to our American literature but old to this land, Ms. García has distilled a new tongue from scraps salvaged through upheaval. . . . It is [the] ordinary magic in Ms. García’s novel and her characters’ sense of their own lyricism that make her work welcome as the latest sign that American literature has its own hybrid offspring of the Latin American school.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Poignant and perceptive . . . It tells of a family divided politically and geographically by the Cuban revolution . . . [and] of the generational fissures that open on each side: In Cuba, between a grandmother who is a fervent Castro supporter and a daughter who retreats into an Afro-Cuban santeria cult; in America, between another daughter, who mocks her obsession . . . The realism is exquisite.”
Los Angeles Times
“Remarkable . . . A rich and haunting narrative . . . An intricate weaving of dramatic events with the supernatural and the cosmic . . . Evocative and lush.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Impressive . . . Her story is about three generations of Cuban women and their separate responses to the revolution. Her special feat is to tell it in a style as warm and gentle as the ‘sustaining aromas of vanilla and almond,’ as rhythmic as the music of Beny Moré.”
1. What is the nature of Celia’s devotion to the revolution? Why is she such a true believer in it?
2. Why does Celia continue to write Gustavo? What does he represent to her? What purposes do her letters serve in the novel?
3. Why does Jorge come back to visit Celia? Why did he lie about Celia to Lourdes, and why is it important for him to tell her what he ’s done?
4. Though the events of modern-day Cuba are woven throughout the novel, García never refers to Fidel Castro by name, only as El Lider. Why does she do this and what does this bring to the novel?
5. Why does Lourdes defend her daughter after Pilar unveils the punk Statue of Liberty painting?
6. This novel is told from several different perspectives over three generations. What does this technique lend to the novel?
7. The themes of magic and faith are predominant throughout the novel. How do the novel’s characters view magic and faith, and how do they use these qualities in their daily lives?
8. All of the characters seem to be searching to fulfill unnamed desires. Can you identify what each of them want? Does regret play any part in their actions?
9. García writes, “The family is hostile to the individual.” Discuss how this applies to the novel’s characters.
10. How are the many intersections of race and class depicted in the novel?
11. By the novel’s end, all of Celia’s children are lost to her, either by death or estrangement. This is echoed by the troubled relationship between Pilar and Lourdes, the twins’ relationship with Felicia, and the final spiriting away of Ivanito.
What is García trying to show here, and why?
12. The final portion of the book, in which Lourdes and Pilar travel to Cuba, is titled “The Languages Lost.” What do you think this means? How do you interpret the other passage headings?
13. What is Pilar searching for in her relationship with her grandmother? Does she find it?
14. What is Celia’s legacy to Pilar?
15. Why does Pilar lie to Celia at the end? How is the theme of betrayal handled throughout the novel?
16. What is it that drives Celia into the sea at the end? Is it Ivanito’s disappearance or
Pilar’s lying to her or something else?
17. What does the title of the book signify? Who is “dreaming,” so to speak? Do you think García is referring to a specific character or is it a collective dreaming?
Posted September 22, 2013
I read this book nearly two years ago, but I still think of it from time to time. It focuses on a Cuban family that has been divided (one half has moved to America while the other remains in Cuba). The viewpoint of several different characters is shown as they take over a chapter or two. It offers an interesting philosophy and story, and I would recommend this novel to any older teen or young adult.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 18, 2011
this book transports the reader to Cuba and all of its wonders of yesteryear. it is beautifully written. i highly recomend reading it and a book by Dede Mirabal re: las hermanas mirabal 'vivas en su jardin'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 9, 2011
I found Dreaming in Cuban to be a cumbersome effort to read. Almost from the start I was beginning to lose track of the characters and I was beginning to think that I would need a score card to keep track of who was who. In this novel the author did create interesting scenes that centers around the Cuban family, and culture but there were so many loose ends when I finished reading the book that the overall story just didn't connect with me. It's not a terrible read, maybe just an entertaining story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 2, 2007
I read this book for the first time at the age of 15. Since, I have read it over and over again....this recount of generations of immigrant women is not what you expect. The story turns into a magical and at times erotic recount of 3 generations of women. It is enchanting and mysterious and at times causes one to ignore what we know to be true about reality...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 4, 2007
I noticed most reviews are from possibly Cuban American readers or students of Latin American literature classes. I found this book after my first cruise which was to the Caribbean. I decided to read translations of Caribbean authors. This is a wonderful book. I agree particularly with the reviewer who mentions how fantasy is a coping mechanism for these characters. This book is bizarre because so much of the time it is the constantly ticking internal dialogues of people. This book increased immensely my understanding of the Cuban American plight and opened up the closed world of those left behind.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 16, 2007
This novel displays a love for writing but a lack of understanding of the priniciple of captivation. Caveats apply to the naive, as sickening images are juxtaposized to beautiful words. Not for all yet all for some.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 18, 2006
With Castro so much in the news lately, it's no wonder this book has taken off--again! And don't think for a minute that it's just a 'chick' book---it's not. It's funny, warm, intelligent, and a great way to spend some time with a writer from whom I hope we'll hear more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 14, 2003
I got interested in this book because in my history class we were learnig about Fidel's Cuba. This book has showed me how people from Cuba feel about Cuba and what they do in Cuba.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 2, 2003
Posted June 12, 2003
I bought this book with out knowing anything about it, and by the time I finished it, I was captivated by the author's writing skill! This is the type of book you just can't put down! I have told all of my friends about it, and I have re-read it about four times. This book was great from start to finish, the characters were totally believable. I felt as if the author could have been spying on my family when she wrote this. I can't give this book enough praise, just go out and read it already!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 23, 2003
I just finished this book for a multicultural women's literature class and I have to say it is now one of my favorites. The way that Garcia weaves her story is simply amazing. The different relationships in this novel are great, you really feel like you are a part of the del Pino family while reading. Garcia makes you really feel the characters you are reading about. I couldn't put this book down, I love it and recommend it to everyone!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 11, 2002
This novel by Julia Garcia is great because it reveals real life situations and how a Dominican family adapts to life in the United States of America after basically being raised in their homeland. The story mostly consists of four sisters, (Carla, Sandi, Yolanda, and Fifi) and their parents Carlos and Laura. The adjustment for the family was relatively harsh, due to the fact that they came from having everything in their homeland to basically trying to survive in this new environment they now tried to call their new home. The novel is very interesting since it is not narrated in chronological order so it makes the reader further analyze the story and put it together after finishing the book. Coming from a Hispanic family and being able to relate to these kinds of situations makes the story more interesting in my eyes. The novel is excellent and is a great paperback for any reader¿s collection.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 15, 2002
In Julia Alvarez's 'Dreaming in Cuban' she gives a fictional account of a generation full of solace and heartbreak among social and political lines. Each character encounters some form of self-observation as each member of the Del Pino family learns to understand and deal with each other miles away from each other before any bloodshed is made. Unfortunately the story's flashbacks and difficult time frame loses the reader's interest. The design of each character's leaves me for one almost uninterested and the focal point of religion, as a backdrop is unrealistic and at times annoying. I for one had problems feeling anything for any of the characters especially Lourdes and Celia so called 'grudge' based on political ideology a socialist and a exile butting heads is enough to make you cringe. Pilar is the only character worth reading as she pushes her mother's button and questions everything that Lourdes has given her enough to make the old witch go nuts from communist books to running away to see her forgotten grandmother. No this is what family is really like.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2002
I recommend this book because, is an excellent story full of vivid imagery, which delves into complicated family dynamics and cultural identity. ¿Dreaming in Cuban¿ tells the story of the Cuban Revolution from the point of view of three generations of women. In this book there is violence, murder, passion, birth and death, but all told in a sort of lyrical and mystical way. I really enjoyed reading this book and I think it is a good novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2002
Three generations and four women dominate this story of a bewitched family. The setting for Cristina Garcia's first novel is Cuba and New York, where she was born and raised. Celia del Pino is the protagonist, a loyal follower of 'El Lider'. Thru her love letters to an old Spanish lover we find out much about the family. Her oldest daughter, Lourdes, is a fervent anti-communist, who immigrated to Brooklyn and realized the American dream of owning her own business. She is a traumatized rape victim, who feels her ony ally is her father. Thru magical realism she spends several years in conversation with him after he died. Only after he fades away can she finally pay a visit to her aging and dying mother in Cuba. Her daughter, Pilar, was born in Cuba the very year Castro took over. Raised in Brooklyn, punk artist and musician, yet longs for Cuba and her grandmother, who she maintains in psychic contact with. Felicia, the youngest daughter, remained in Cuba, even though she is apolitical. She suffers from bouts of insanity, is divorced, and has three dysfunctional children. Felicia's interest in Santeria, a Voodoo-type religion, gives us the opportuity to learn about it in a colorful and vivid fashion. The author uses an interesting twist of words that keep the reader amused, though melancholic and confused at times. The characterization is superb. Each character demands your attention and their complex relationship makes for good readingWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 12, 2002
Dreaming in Cuban is the story of a Cuban family that is divided by politics, religion, ideals, and a beautiful sea. Writer Cristina Garcia transmits the feelings of three generations of Cuban women, First of all by Celia whose consuming passion is for El Lider ¿Fidel.¿ Lourdes; she is an immigrant living in New York City, and a proud proprietor of the Yankee Doodle Bakery. Felicia; She can not stay away from man and black magic and Pilar; she is the youngest generation of these three women, she is in a never ending fight with her mother. These character are the most important ones in the story, each of them represent a different prospective of life. The novel is set between Cuba and New York. The character of Celia is a very important one, in the sense of integrity for her believes and the way she hopes for a better tomorrow. Pilar is the future. She wants to go back to her land and also see her Grandmother ¿Celia¿ before she forgets both of them. I recommend reading the book. It will help you understand the power of love.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2002
Dreaming in Cuban by Christina Garcia is an intriguing look into a family torn by Fidel Castro's political hold on Cuba. Taking place in both Cuba and the United States the story explores political, geographical, religious, and generational divides among family members. Readers will meet Celia del Pino the matriarch of the family and ever loyal to Castro. Celia's daughter Lourdes living in New York staunchly opposes Castro and has little more warmth for her mother. Pilar, the artistic rebel and third generation, feels a connection to her grandmother and a life she remembers. Readers will travel with the family members dealing with insanity, religious curiosities and even attempted murder/suicide. Garcia's book is definitely worth reading as she is able to capture many of the issues Cuban families experience in this compelling novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2002
Dreaming in Cuban is an intricate story about a Cuban family¿s struggling with their devotion to their country, their family, and their lovers. Significant messages are creatively exposed through love letters. Cristina Garcia really did a remarkable job on this novel. A must read for all.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2002
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia links the lives of three generations of Cuban women: the grandmother, her two daughters, and the granddaughter. Each character escapes reality by some form of fantasy: the grandmother devotes herself to communism, one daughter to Santeria, the other to a bakery in New York, and the granddaughter to punk painting. The book has a great illustration of the Cuban religion: Santeria, using it to show the revolution of the Cuban communism. I highly recommend this book it is a great way to get a truthful knowledge of the Cuban life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2002
¿Dreaming in Cuban¿ is one of those books that are excessively fun to read. The book tells the story of three parts of one family. This family is divided by their own make-shifted beliefs of what is wrong and what isn¿t. Cristina Garcia¿s style of writing drags the reader to understand what a Cuban family feels. How it is to live in a family that are drawn by their beliefs to go forward and not look back. Three different women reacting differently to the revolution is what Garcia successfully explains. That along with how and why they chose the paths they took and the outcome to their decisions. Wonderfully written giving a unique perspective on what happened in the revolution.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.