In a follow-up to his 2003 National Book Award–winning Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy, Eire (History and Religious Studies/Yale Univ.) describes his early years of exile in the United States.
In 1962, at age 11, the author and his older brother, Tony, were among 14,000 children airlifted from Castro’s Cuba to Florida. This vivid, affecting memoir of survival and coming of age traces Eire’s experiences living in several places through 1965, when his mother finally came to the United States. In this period of “death and rebirth,” the author tried to blot out memories of a repressive Castrolandia and thrilled to a Miami where everything was “so new, so free of ghosts, so wide open.” While his brother was sent elsewhere, Eire was taken in by a kind Jewish family, learned English and Yiddish, and began calling himself Charles, hoping to fit in, even as he desperately missed his parents. His father remained and later died in Cuba. Within the year, the brothers were reunited in yet another Miami home, this one ruled by strict foster parents and overrun by mice and roaches. While Cuban exiles trained for war in nearby fields in the wake of the Bay of Pigs, Carlos felt “wholly and truly American,” engaging in food fights and Halloween pranks. He also discovered a portal to a much larger world on the shelves of a local public library. Finally, in 1963, he and Tony happily joined the family of an uncle and aunt in the Midwest. There his experience of a “presence” on Holy Thursday helped him better understand the lessons of Thomas a Kempis’s manual of devotion, The Imitation of Christ—a parting gift from his parents—and set him on a course to become a teacher and historian of religion.
An engrossing Cuban-American story that will leave readers wanting more.