A Sad Song to Havana

Book review: "Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family"

By Olga Karman
Published on LatinoLA: November 29, 2010

A Sad Song to Havana

Longina, the youngster who tells her life story in "Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family" (Floricanto Press, 2010) holds a mirror up to a post-revolutionary society where the issue of the day is how to "resolver" or find away around shortages of basic goods, getting a visa to leave the country, blackouts, lack of water, fire-eating "comecandela" neighbors who earn points by spying and telling on suspicious activities.

The popular saying, "next year in Miami" is but one example of the insistent presence of the American dream on the streets of Havana. In this upside down world, promises are broken and dreams of glory have come to little: the revolutionary newspaper is used to wrap feces when there is no water for the toilet; teenagers marry old men from abroad just to find a way out; a doctor aspires to be a doorman or a hotel cook to get paid in dollars; elementary school children's records include their political history, and survival may mean stealing food from a place of work, buying in the black market, waiting for gifts from family in exile.

The most gripping moments in Habanera are those when Longina composes letters to Fidel asking him for help, and then one day she stops writing. Teresa Dovalpage transports the reader to a broken city Longina cannot help loving. This city will break her heart.

To buy Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family go to http://www.floricantopress.com/habanera.htm

About Olga Karman:
Olga Karman--teacher, poet, and memoirist--is the author of Scatter My Ashes Over Havana and two books of poetry
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