Ruins

Ruins

Achy Obejas

Literature & Fiction / Poetry

A true believer is faced with a choice between love for his family and the Cuban Revolution."Daring, tough, and deeply compassionate, Achy Obejas's Ruins is a breathtaker. Obejas writes like an angel, which is to say: gloriously . . . one of the Cuba's most important writers."--Junot Diaz, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction"In the Havana of Ruins, scarcity can only be fought with ingenuity, and the characters work very hard at the exquisite art of getting by. The plot rests on the schemes of its weary, obsessive, dreamy hero--a character so brilliantly drawn that he can't be dismissed or forgotten. A tender and wildly accurate portrait, in a gem of a novel."--Joan Silber, author of The Size of the World"Obejas evinces a new, focused lyricism as she penetrates to the very heart of the Cuban paradox in a story as pared down and intense as its narrator's life."--Booklist (starred review)"Compassionate and intriguing . . . Obejas plays out [the book's] conflicts in measured, simple prose, allowing her descriptions of the mundane--houses, food, dominoes--to illuminate a setting filled with heartbreak, confusion and decay . . . At her best, Obejas controls the mixture of humor and pathos that suffuse this poor community."--Los Angeles Times"Ruins is a beautifully written novel, a moving testament to the human spirit of an unlikely hero who remains unbroken even as the world collapses around him . . . A fine literary achievement, it's Achy Obejas at her very best."--El Paso Times"[A] superb novel . . . Highly recommended."--Library Journal"[An] honest and superbly written book."--Miami Herald"With the deft and evocative detail of a poet's, Obejas's prose is as illuminating and honest as her struggling protagonist."--Publishers WeeklyUsnavy has always been a true believer. When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, he was just a young man and eagerly signed on for all of its promises. But as the years have passed, the sacrifices have outweighed the glories and he's become increasingly isolated in his revolutionary zeal. His friends openly mock him, his wife dreams of owning a car totally outside their reach, and his beloved fourteen-year-old daughter haunts the coast of Havana, staring north.In the summer of 1994, a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government allows Cubans to leave at will and on whatever will float. More than 100,000 flee--including Usnavy's best friend. Things seem to brighten when he stumbles across what may or may not be a priceless Tiffany lamp that reveals a lost family secret and fuels his long repressed feelings . . . But now Usnavy is faced with a choice between love for his family and the Revolution that has shaped his entire life.From Publishers WeeklyIn 1994 Havana, times are hard: for maladroitly named Usnavy and his family, home is one windowless, sparsely furnished room, and rationing is so tight that pieces of a blanket... beaten and marinated in spices and a little beef broth pass for sandwich meat. When not managing the local bodega or playing dominoes with childhood friends, earnest Usnavy tries to keep his out-of-work wife and 14-year-old daughter from despair and disillusionment. His one treasure, as precious as his mother's legacy, is a most extraordinary lamp… of multicolor stained glass and shaped like an oversized dome. Around this lamp (a genuine Tiffany?), poet and novelist Obejas spins a mystery with political ramifications. Keeping within the tight frame of Usnavy's day-to-day life, Obejas confronts the ruin of Cuba; the fate of those who escape to the States, and those who remain; and broad issues of religious and sexual identity. With the deft and evocative detail of a poet's, Obejas's prose is as illuminating and honest as her struggling protagonist. (Mar.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From BooklistStarred Review A fatherless child named in honor of the big U.S. Navy ships in Guantánamo Bay, Usnavy, weary and destitute at 54 in 1994, still believes fervently in Cuba’s Communist mission even though his neighbors are fleeing to the U.S. under the cover of darkness on anything that will float. Usnavy works, navigates state bureaucracy, plays dominos in the square with his ribald buddies, and basks in the radiance of his only treasure, an opulent, Tiffany-like stained-glass lamp. A rare object of beauty, an embodiment of light and transcendence, it links humble and honest Usnavy to a hidden facet of Cuban history, and to the freer world of creativity and its shadow side of greed and desperation, deception and secret justice. Following the substantial Days of Awe (2001), prizewinning, ever-innovative Cuban American writer Obejas evinces a new, focused lyricism as she penetrates to the very heart of the Cuban paradox in a story as pared down and intense as its narrator’s life. Inlaid with images of transformation, this Havana story in the Hemingway mode illuminates the tragedies and resiliency of a twilight land caught in the spell of a failed dream and portrays with exquisite sensitivity a man reaching toward the light. --Donna Seaman
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Days of Awe

Days of Awe

Achy Obejas

Literature & Fiction / Poetry

On New Year's Day 1959, as Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, Alejandra San José was born in Havana, entering the world through the heart of revolution. Fearing the conflict and strife that bubbled up in the streets all around the new family, her parents took Ale and fled to the free shores of America.Ale grew up in Chicago amid a close community of refugees who lived with the hope that one day Castro would fall and they could return to their Cuban homes. Though Ale was intrigued by the specter of Havana that colored her life as a child, her fascination eventually faded in her teens until all that remained was her profound respect for the intricacies of the Spanish language and the beautiful work her father did as a linguist and translator.When her own job as an interpreter takes her back to Cuba, Ale is initially unmoved at the import of her return-- until she stumbles upon a surprising truth: the San Josés, ostensibly Catholics, are actually Jews....
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We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?

We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?

Achy Obejas

Literature & Fiction / Poetry

Achy Obejas writes stories about uprooted people. Some, like herself, are Latino immigrants and lesbians; others are men (gay and straight), people with AIDS, addicts, people living marginally, just surviving. As omniscient narrator to her characters' lives, Obejas generously delves into her own memories of exile and alienation to tell stories about women and men who struggle for wholeness and love.
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Memory Mambo

Memory Mambo

Achy Obejas

Literature & Fiction / Poetry

Memory Mambo describes the life of Juani Casas, a 25-year-old Cuban-born American lesbian who manages her family's laundromat in Chicago while trying to cope with family, work, love, sex, and the weirdness of North American culture. Achy Obejas's writing is sharp and mordantly funny. She understands perfectly how the romance of exile—from a homeland as well as from heterosexuality—and the mundane reality of everyday life balance one another. Memory Mambo is ultimately very moving in its depiction of what it means to find a new and finally safe sense of home.
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The Tower of the Antilles

The Tower of the Antilles

Achy Obejas

Literature & Fiction / Poetry

"For twenty years I've been a fan of the genius Achy Obejas—since I first read Memory Mambo in 1996. Obejas has been the model of a writer for me in every way—a master in her aesthetics, an inspiration in her politics, fearless and vital in every page. The Tower of the Antilles is another brilliant collection, a story of many Cubas, intensely personal and political, erotic and cerebral. I found myself holding my breath as I devoured this book, as I navigated the various avenues of the body, the blood, and all those seemingly impossible roads that lead to a place we try to call home."—Porochista Khakpour, author of The Last Illusion"These stories are like a long dream of many parts, mixed desire, love, longing, anger—Obejas is a master of the human, able to conjure her characters' heartbeats right under your fingertips, their breaths in your ears."—Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the...
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