Days of Awe by Achy Obejas

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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.

About Achy Obejas

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Achy Obejas is the award-winning author of Days of Awe, Memory Mambo, We Came all the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?, and editor of Havana Noir. A long-time contributor to the Chicago Tribune, she was part of the 2001 investigative team that earned a Pulitzer Prize for the series, 'Gateway to Gridlock.'
Published December 18, 2007 by Ballantine Books. 402 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Moving back and forth from the present to1897, when patriarch Itzak fought heroically in Cuba’s War of Independence against Spain, Alexandra describes her family’s struggle to practice Judaism and her own ambivalence about her faith and her homeland.

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Publishers Weekly

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Born the day Castro came to power, the protagonist of this thoughtful novel comes with her mother and father to the United States when she is two, but cannot ignore her tangled Cuban roots.

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Project MUSE

Days of Awe, Achy Obejas's second novel and third book of fiction, centers on its Cuban American protagonist's discovery of her family's concealed Jewishness.

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LL Book Reviews

Her American neighborhood, while Cuban, was primarily Jewish and as she grew she began to detect that her parents had something in common with their Jewish neighbors but it took her quite a while to discover that her father was indeed Jewish and her mother who was Catholic was descended from Jews.

Aug 16 2012 | Read Full Review of Days of Awe

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