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. They are conversos who converted to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition.
Enlightened by a whole new vision of her past and her culture, Ale makes her way back through San José history, uncovering new fragments of truth about the relatives who struggled with their own identities so long ago. Ale is finally lured back to Cuba to make amends with the ancestral demons still lurking there--to translate her father's troubling youthful experiences into the healing language of her Cuban American heart.
In beautiful, knowing prose, Achy Obejas opens up a fascinating world of exotic wordplay, rich history, and vibrant emotions. As Alejandra struggles to confront what it is to be Cuban and American, Catholic and Jewish, Obejas illuminates her journey and the tempestuous history of Cuba with intelligence and affection. Days of Awe is a lyrical and lovely novel from an author destined for literary renown.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Days of Awe|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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Days of Awe
Well before dawn on Sunday, the fifteenth of April 1961, the day we left Cuba—a dreaded day, an ashen day without a single blush of blue in the skies over Havana—my mother ensconced herself in a back room of our apartment, arranging a series of clear glasses of water under a small effigy of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.
“This will help purify us,” she said carrying in the tumblers, filled not with tap water but with the sanitized kind that came in huge blue bottles.
If my mother’s Saint Jude looked a little shiny compared with the other saints on her altar, that’s because he was fairly new to her pantheon. My mother’s prayers usually went to the Virgin of Charity, Cuba’s patron, to whom she’d entrusted my mortal soul if I survived those delicate first hours of transfusions and gunfire.
Even as she lit a white candle to Saint Jude to help us on our journey, which seemed impossible enough, her preferred icon was carefully wrapped in newspapers, plastic sheets, and a double-folded yellow cotton blanket. It was then tucked into a box to which my father had fashioned a handle from thin rope and the inside of a toilet paper roll. Regardless of Saint Jude’s divine jurisdictions and whatever seemingly untenable situations we might encounter, it was the Virgin who was traveling with us, the Virgin who would be settled at the pinnacle of whatever new altar my mother constructed wherever we might wind up.
I’ve always thought of the Virgin of Charity as the perfect mentor for Cuba: Cradling her child in her arms, she floats above a turbulent sea in which a boat w...