Passing Through Havana: A Novel Of A Wartime Girlhood In The Caribbean
Passing Through Havana: A Novel of a Wartime Girlhood in the Caribbean
Claudia, a young Jewish girl, and her family flee the horrors of Nazi Europe and find refuge in Cuba, where they must forge new identities for themselves amid the exotic, upper-class Catholic society of pre-Castro Cuba From The New Yorker In 1941 on her way from Antwerp....to Havana, Claudia Rossin, the blond and Jewish daughter of a Moravian and a Pole, hears her family name given three....pronunciations, which seem to confirm her status as a citizen of no one country. ....While her mother worries about Europe and Palestine,....Claudia yearns to blend in with her dark-haired (Cuban) Catholic friends. The story of her exotic adolescence begins with her discovery of local delicacies....and ends with her discovery of Old Country racism in the arms of an ignorant Aryan brat. From Kirkus Reviews In this feverishly probing autobiographical novel, WWII Havana becomes another passage for young refugee Claudia Rossin, yet another passage where "things keep being taken away from me without being replaced." Her mother, beautiful Suze.....has made the escape deals --flirting, charming Germans and Salvadorians. Her father Max...clings to the importance of money, awed by Suze's "assimilationist aplomb". For Suze, impatient to conquer America, Cuba is just something to live through but for Claudia....it's a paradise of warmth and color....At her private church-sponsored school she longs to be part of the Cuban circle of sweetly talcumed black-haired Carmens and Margaritas -although her Nordic blond hair has always been Suze's delight. She "hates" being Jewish. ("What did Jewishness mean? I couldn't touch it. I couldn't feel it.") Suze allows her to wear the school badge (the cross of St. George)...and Cludia keeps her scret:"that we had fled, diamond-lined suitcases in hand, because we were Jews decreed for extermination....." Furthermore, Claudia and expatriate German boy Dieter fall in love: a mutual infatuation, with Dieter unhealthily obsessed with a sick Germanic romanticism and Claudia engulfed by the illusion of finally belonging. ....during Carnival Dieter's grotesque, Naxi-fied alter ego leads Claudia to an obscene rite, fist-sex and bitter awakening. A decade later Claudia, now an American, will say to her Cuban friends, now refugees of a more rooted sort in Miami: "To be a Jew in the Caribbean is a sorry business....You have to lose ( things) a hundred times...including relatives whose names you refuse to remember." ....ardent, bitter testimony on the nature of rootlessness - of place, religion, and family closeness. Review "Claudia's exotic adolescence begins with her discovery of local delicacies ....and ends with her discovery of old country racism in the arms of an ignorant Aryan brat." -The New Yorker"Funny and touching dialogue and some indelibly memorable characters." -The New York Times"What is haunting about this elegantly written narrative is that all those lives are gone.
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