A member of the ``one-and-a-half'' generationCubans who came to the US in childhood after Castro took powermuses intriguingly about the paradoxes of Cuban-American identity. PÇrez Firmat, the author of several books of poetry and literary criticism and professor of Spanish at Duke, arrived in Miami with his family in 1960, when he was 11. The family had been prosperous grocery dealers in Havana, but they left behind their business, home, servants, and nearly all of their money to escape the Revolution. In Miami, PÇrez Firmat's father got a job in a car dealership but only as a temporary measure: Like thousands of their fellow exiles, the PÇrez Firmat family constructed their life around the assumption that Castro would be deposed imminently and that they would return to take up life and livelihood exactly where they had left off. PÇrez Firmat elegantly captures the strangeness of this perpetual limbo: ``Perhaps if we had been less prone to wishful thinking, we would have paid more attention to the American here and now; but instead, here and now collapsed into nowhere, and we lived dreaming about the island across the water.'' Growing up in Miami's Little Havana and going to school with Americans, PÇrez Firmat felt a conflict of cultural identity that his parents, living as if exile was temporary, did not share. His identity crisis came to a head when he left his Cuban-born wife for a non- Cuban American woman, symbolically asserting that his American life is not the accidental stopgap that his parents' dreaming generation can't help but consider it. Unfortunately, PÇrez Firmat evinces all too frequently a bilingual poet's delight in puns and multiple meanings, which can distract from his insightsbut overall this is a swell investigation of the convoluted exile psyche.
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