Memory Mambo

Memory Mambo

by Achy Obejas
     
 

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A brilliant new novel by the author of We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? Juani, a 24-year-old Latina lesbian, is exiled, with her irresistibly crazy family, from Cuba to the United States. Here a chorus of cousins--blood cousins and "cousins in exile"--wreak havoc as Juani attempts to sift through layers of memories and family myth to find…  See more details below

Overview

A brilliant new novel by the author of We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? Juani, a 24-year-old Latina lesbian, is exiled, with her irresistibly crazy family, from Cuba to the United States. Here a chorus of cousins--blood cousins and "cousins in exile"--wreak havoc as Juani attempts to sift through layers of memories and family myth to find the truth about her life.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
The woman is a charmer. She writes as if she were your old pal—garrulous, ironic, a bit irritable perhaps. Catching you up on all the family gossip. Like Dorothy Allison in Bastard Out Of Carolina, Obejas seduces you into her story about the lives and love of an extended Cuban family in Chicago with great good humor and anecdotal chat.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The power and meaning of memory lie at the heart of Obejas's (We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?) insightful and excellent second work of fiction. With a prose so crisp, the book could pass for a biography, Obejas introduces Juani Casas, a Cuban-born American lesbian in her early 20s who manages her family's Laundromat in a Cuban neighborhood of Chicago. Juani walks a fine line between being out about her sexuality and being discrete enough not to alienate her family. Her family, after all, is central to her sense of belonging, and Obejas portrays that complex web with vivid and original characterization. The tone is set by Juani's need to know the truth about her family's life in Cubadid her father really invent duct tape, and are the scenes of beaches and lush vegetation actual memories, or visualizations of stories told to her? What initially passes as a series of unrelated, rich, colorful anecdotes about the Cuban revolution and Cuban American culture slowly evolves into a story about the power of words and their ability to actually shape memories. When Juani's relationship with her lover, Gina, ends violently, Juani allows her lying, abusive cousin-in-law, Jimmy, to spin tales to explain the situation to the family. But soon Juani realizes she has reconstructed the actual events to suit Jimmy's lie and is unable to clearly separate fact and fiction. Juani slowly sinks into a fog, until an incident that unmasks Jimmy helps her reclaim her own truths and let those she loves back into her life. This is an evocative work that illuminates the delicate complexities of self-deception and self-respect, and the importance of love and family. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The melancholy and sense of displacement that is in the background of Obejas's collection of humorous short stories, We Came All the Way From Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? (Cleis, 1994) is at the heart of Memory Mambo, her first novel. Chicago journalist Obejas introduces Juani Casas, offshoot of an extended, loving, and quarrelsome Cuban American family, both biological and chosen. Juani has broken up with her girlfriend after a vicious fight, and waiting to see what it takes to shake her out of her annoying and ultimately dangerous passivity keeps the reader engaged. The book reads, in part, like a thriller and ends in a horrifying climax. Exploring the disturbing, at times cruel undertow of love and sex, Obejas's graphic scenes of violence are utterly compelling, but in describing what is supposed to be a dnouement, the scene in which Juani discovers that her family history is, as she feared, built upon lies, Obejas is not entirely convincing. Her characters are as flawed and as worthy of compassion as we are; whether we identify as Latino/a, gay, and working class, we are all of us primos of exile. Recommended for general collections.Ina Rimpau, Newark P.L., N.J.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573440189
Publisher:
Cleis Press
Publication date:
09/01/1996
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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