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A WAKE IN YBOR CITY by Jose Yglesias

A WAKE IN YBOR CITY

by Jose Yglesias

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-55885-248-4
Publisher: Arte Público

The “thirty-fifth anniversary edition” (really, now) of the late Cuban-American writer’s 1963 debut novel—an authoritative though imperfectly constructed story set in Tampa’s Latino section (Ybor City) in 1958, on the eve of the Cuban Revolution. Its characters are the family of three aging sisters (Clemencia, Dolores, and Mina), several of whom too visibly embody varying attitudes toward Cuban nationalism, assimilation into American culture, and machismo in conflict with the power of matriarchy. The merely functional plot involves the revenge killing of a crooked cigar-maker, a plan to smuggle arms to Cuban rebels, and a child’s dangerous illness, and the many lengthy argumentative scenes here are enervated by coy banalities (“When you’re in love, sex is like a profound conversation”). Yglesias’s grasp of immigrant family dynamics is masterly, but the stylistic assurance and narrative economy displayed in his mature fiction (Double Double, 1974, The Truth About Them, 1971, etc.) are only faintly adumbrated by this less even apprentice work.