My stack of books is growing larger almost day by day! I’m getting ready for the fall and cold winter we’re supposed to have, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. Send me your book suggestions, recent reads and favorite books and we’ll keep the list going and the book pile growing! I love hearing what people are reading, whether classics, nonfiction, or new releases and bestsellers. Also, NPR just realeased their Fall Book Buzz with some great titles, including the highly anticipated release of Dan Brown’s newest novel, The Lost Symbol.

I recently finished a fantastic memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos M. N. Eire (Free Press, 2003). This is one of the best-written and most enjoyable memoirs that I’ve read in a while, affording the opportunity to laugh, cry, and learn. Eager to learn more about Cuba and pre- and post- Castro, this book was an unplanned read, one that was found while delightfully browsing the shelves at my library. Earlier this summer, I had considered reading Fidel Castro: My Life by Ignacio Ramonet and Fidel Castro, but have not gotten around to reading it yet. (It’s on my wish list of books to read, waiting to join my giant book towers!) So, when Waiting for Snow in Havana came across my book browse, I thought this would be a perfect introduction to learning about life in Cuba. The author Carlos Eire,  is a highly respected religious scholar and professor at Yale University and Waiting for Snow in Havana won the National Book Award in Nonfiction in 2003. His acceptance speech of the award demonstrates his wit and wisdom, to quote: ” The sweetest and deepest irony is that this book is the result of my night job, because up till now I’ve only written scholarly books.” For more on the author, read his biography and an excerpt from his book. There’s no turning back….

Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children who were sent to the U.S. from 1960-1962 during Operation Pedro Pan:

“Over four decades ago, Cuban parents fearing indoctrination and that the Cuban government would take away their parental authority exercised one of the most fundamental human rights: the right to choose how their children would be educated.

From December 1960 to October 1962, more than fourteen thousand Cuban youths arrived alone in the United States. What is now known as Operation Pedro Pan was the largest recorded exodus of Unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere. The exodus of the Cuban children was virtually unknown for over 30 years.”  From http://www.pedropan.org/

The book is creatively mastered and portrays Eire’s duality of growing up as a privileged youth in Cuba, son of a judge and not lacking for comforts along with his exit of Cuba, and his entry into the United States without his parents and placed into foster homes and orphanages for several years, during a formative period in his life. He was eventually reunited with his mother in Chicago and worked full-time in several jobs before graduating from college and graduate school. Eire’s memories of his childhood details paint a clear picture of the colorful life he led and the stories he lived to tell. Daring childhood feats (playing with fire, bricks, explosives, fighting, etc) could have resulted poorly and yet, he had a higher purpose, one to masterfully tell the story of the exodus of thousands of Cuban children and still, to live that tale.

Perhaps the parts I like best in the book include the author’s colorful writing style, his bold sharing of memories, his descriptions of Havana and his family, the conditions of being plucked from his comfortable life in Cuba to essentially growing up on his own in the United States along with the harsh conditions he faced in Chicago, and the prejudices he had to endure. As a reader, I am always intrigued and awed by how people survive adversity, mental and physical anguish, and the lessons they learn and consequently share as authors and writers. When someone faced with a difficult challenge or position is asked “How do you do it? How do you get through the day? How do you go on living?” the response is more or less “You just do it. You live day by day. You develop goals, dreams and ways to go on. You learn, gain strength and hopefully become wiser.” While this sounds easy and perhaps even too trite, we all have had challenges in our lives that we learn to live with or to overcome. The beauty of these life lessons is that they are teaching, learning, growing, and strengthening opportunities. Friedrich Nietzche’s quote comes to mind here: “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” While we could all come up with lists of things we wished had not happened in our lives, we can also come up with lists of the virtues and lessons learned from those particularly difficult events, actions, and deeds.

In Waiting for Snow in Havana, readers will appreciate Eire’s honesty, his life story, his lessons learned, his reflections, his passion and emotions, and his longing for a sense of home. His ability to pick up the pieces and move forward with his life in a constructive, positive and useful way, is particularly inspiring and motivating. While not a self-help book, this reader has come away with a sense of peace and an instillation of positive motion to move forward in life, no matter what the challenges or adversities one must face.

Waiting for Snow in Havana is highly recommended. Be prepared to laugh out-loud, be awed, and become inspired. Happy Reading!

ps. I am currently reading The Storyteller’s Daughter by Saira Shah and also have just 2 hours left of the audio version (unabridged) of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy with the translation by Constance Garnett. Stay tuned for future postings on GreyCatBlog. Thanks for visiting my site.


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