social icons

Facebook Twitter Youtube Pinterest Blogger Email Rss


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: "Dreaming in Cuban" by Cristina Garcia

Dreaming in CubanProduct Details:
Dreaming in Cuban is a novel about the bonds and differences (political, geographical, and personal) of three generations of women in the del Pino family. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution.

This is a beautifully written novel. It is about three generations of women; the grandmother, Celia; the daughters, Felicia and Lourdes; and the granddaughter, Pilar. The novel takes place in Cuba and in The United States. It jumps back and forth in time, linear at times, but not consistently. It is written in third person omniscient with some first person narratives told through letters.

Celia del Pino is a Cuban woman in her late 60's who supports Cuba and its revolution. While her husband, Jorge, is a supporter of the American form of government. Jorge leaves his wife in Cuba and goes to live with his daughter Lourdes in America while seeking medical treatment  for stomach cancer. He dies, never returning to Cuba, which haunts Celia, never again having seen her husband.

Celia's daughter Lourdes, who has fled from Cuba and moved to Brooklyn, opens up a bakery. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and her daughter, Pilar. Pilar is a teenager with a punk style and rebellious attitude. Although Pilar rebels against her mother, she manages to retain a connection to her grandmother in Cuba. Celia is afraid that her granddaughter will lose her Cuban heritage while living in the U.S. Celia's other daughter Felicia, lives in Cuba and becomes mentally unstable and practices the religion of Santeria.

This novel took me on a journey of highs and lows. It is a portrait of the dysfunctional relationship between mother and child. Celia and her daughters struggle for a balance in their different ideals and beliefs but never reach a fully resolved medium. The history of Cuba propels Celia to try and maintain a familial connection, while the cultural and political shackles tear her family apart. The main themes present in this novel are cultural and generational differences, forced and self-imposed exile, dysfunctional relationships, mental illness and political tension to name a few.

I think I read the entire book in a Latin accent in my mind. The words were easy, silky and rhythmic. It was as if I were reading a novel living in a poetic whirlwind. With lyrical oxymorons, the words flowed from the page with a literary cadence. The rhapsodic flow seduced me and I wanted more words to read and absorb, to practice and refine my Latin accent. There are some beautifully written sentences that are so rich, that my dislike for the structure of the novel with its jumping of location, time and place became tolerable. The narrative content is not compelling. I did not walk away with some new found enlightenment. But I did reach the end with an enhanced appreciation for storytelling. If I could sum this book into one word it would be... dreamy.  I would highly recommend this book.


Memorable Quotes and Excerpts

"Celia reaches into her straw handbag for more red lipstick, then darkens the mole on her left cheek with a black eyebrow pencil. Her sticky graying hair is tied in a chignon at her neck. Celia played the piano once and still exercises her hands, unconsciously stretching them two notes beyond an octave. She wears leather pumps with her bright housedress."

"This was just like her. Pretty words. Meaningless words that didn't nourish us, that didn't comfort us, that kept us prisoners in her alphabet world."

"My sister and I call our mother "not-Mama." As in not-Mama charred the chicken and is cursing in the kitchen. Not-Mama is playing that record again, dancing by herself in the dark. Watch out, not-Mama is feeling sorry for herself. She wants us to tell her we love her. When we don't, she looks right past us as if she could see another pair of girls just behind us, girls who will tell her what she wants to hear."


  1. You know, I've never understood the political issues between Cuba and the United States. Never really cared enough to make the effort, quite frankly. Did you find that this book helped you get a better grasp on what all of the fuss is about in that regard?

  2. No, the book probably wouldn't give a reader any substantial in depth information abut the Cuban Revolution or it's ties to the U.S. I knew beforehand. The book does show the love that Celia has for her country and her allegiance to El Lider. It shows the awful treatment by revolutionary soldiers that inflicted pain upon Lourdes and seized their home, which is why she fled to Miami and then New York.

    To be brief, the Cuban Revolution began because the people of Cuba were being oppressed by a dictator name Batista. He was corrupt and spending the country's money on his tourist friends along with embezzling hundred of millions of government money for himself. Fidel Castro (referred to as El Lider in the book) rebelled against Bastista and with other rebels attempted an attack. He was later captured, pardon and exiled. He begin training in Mexico to launch another attack. With the support of the Cuban people Castro was able to overthrow the dictator. Batista fled to Spain.

    Castro came into power, he was an "undercover" communist. When his communist behavior became more apparent, the U.S. imposed a trade embargo (making it illegal for U.S. corporations to do business with Cuba) which caused hardship for the lives of Cubans.

    The real issue was the people of Cuba had no voice. They wanted to have a democratic system where people voted for their President, but Batista was so corrupt, he would illegally corrode the voting system, leaving only his name on the ballot and another time he simply seized power at election time. But unfortunately they didn't do any better with Castro afterward, who many Cubans supported in the beginning.

    The U.S. and Cuba has a long history of entagled messiness. But that's a brief history version as I remember it.

  3. Sounds so hypocritical. We won't do business with Cuba because they're communist and yet we're all up and through China. Makes no sense to me.

  4. People sometimes find an exception when money is involved.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Lena's Ramblings

My photo
I am a writer, filmmaker, wife and a mom of five beautiful, intelligent, quirky kids. This blog is for writers, aspiring writers, filmmakers and movie lovers. Bringing you my favorite books, films and photos, as well as giveaways and updates on my journey. I'm currently in the process of producing my first short film from my collection of short stories titled, If I Had My Way. The first story to be filmed will be Tandarin Drive. My award winning book, If I Had My Way, is available now. You can purchase a copy at and You may contact me via email at:

Join My Other Fantabulous Followers!

If I Had My Way

If I Had My Way
Available Now! Please Get Your Copy Today!

Popular Posts

Blogs I Love and Frequently Read