Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Waiting for Snow in Havana

I have been reading an outstanding book, both from a literary and a theological perspective: Waiting for Snow in Havana.

The author, Carlos Eire, is a Cuban exile. The book is primarily a memoir of his boyhood in Cuba, but it also touches on his post-Cuban life in the US, and on the present. I had never meditated on the painful process of exile, even if the exile is a child. The author was a wealthy, white son of a judge, and ended up being "a spic," who had to lie about his age to get work washing dishes all night and being looked-down-on by everyone around him. His mom went from being a pampered wife to being a single, crippled mom, unable to find work or take care of her children.

One of the amazing things about the book, aside from lots of great randomness one might expect from a thorough childhood memory, is the author's amazing ability to turn everything back around to God. At the end of one awful chapter, where he remembers fragments of near-molestation by a hated foster brother, he heaps coals on the brother's head by wishing he would go to heaven and be forgiven by Jesus, when the reader expects him to wish the brother damned.

The author went through scarring by his monk-teachers; he ended up being paranoid that a dirty magazine might fall open on his face right before he died, thus sending him straight to hell. He went through trials ranging from living in foreign orphanages to listening to his mom scream while bombs fell. He also lived in a country where religion was eventually outlawed. However, none of that seems to have separated him from his God. I like that--it is too easy to allow fellow "Christians" to injure our faith, or to see our traumas as reasons to doubt. Carlos Eire just sees it all as the way things are, and maintains this amazing reverence toward God. He does so with an amazing sense of humor, too.

I highly recommend this book, to almost anyone. It is remarkably upbeat, considering, and brings back all of the fun of childhood. It also has taught me more about history, and made me think about identity, and about God.

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