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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  3,604 ratings  ·  599 reviews
"Have mercy on me, Lord, I am Cuban." In 1962, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba -- exiled from his family, his country, and his own childhood by the revolution. The memories of Carlos's life in Havana, cut short when he was just eleven years old, are at the heart of this stunning, evocative, and unforgettable memoir. "Waiting for Snow in Havana" ...more
387 pages
Published by Turtleback Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jill
Aug 09, 2014 Jill rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jill by: Kinga

This is the true story of Carlos Eire, professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University.

Paraphrase of book:
I have a great story to tell. Why, you ask. Is it because it deals with the revolution in Cuba? Is it because it is a memoir? Is it because I am a child narrator? No, no not at all. It's because it is about....me!

Had this been about some figure I actually knew something about, or had at least heard of, I may have found all the rambling and anecdotes a little interesting. A
...more
Paul Schulzetenberg
Full disclosure: The author of this book is a family friend, and although I wouldn't say that I know him well, I have met him a few times.

Some people have fascinating stories to tell. Some people are able to write well. A select few people have both interesting stories, and a flair for authoring. Carlos Eire is one of those people.

On its surface, this is a very simple book. It's about a story that most people are at least moderately familiar with. Fidel Castro leads a successful rebellion agains
...more
Abby
Newly arrived in a city and state where I know virtually no one, my immediate inclination is to seek out the readers. Sure enough, there are book clubs at the library, in bookstores, in the adult learning program housed at the nearby world-class university. Starting with the local library, I dutifully picked up a copy of the January selection, this memoir of a world and a boyhood lost to the Cuban Revolution. I figured I'd zip through it, go to the discussion and get on to something I really wan ...more
Mary
In 1962 Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba-exiled from his family at age 11. The Cuban revolution took away his family, his beloved country, his friends, and, most importantly, his childhood. The memories of his Cuban life are an exorcisan and to tribute to a paradise lost: the island of his youth. The lizards, turquoise seas and sun drenched siestas are the heart of this memoir. After Castro ousts Batista music sounds like gunfire, Christmas is illegal, and the wait to ...more
Carlos
As the son of two Cuban-Americans driven from their homeland by a tragic communist revolution, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In response to the constant pestering by my mother to read it, I finally picked up the novel, which was written by Carlos Eire, a man who not only has a great name but is also my mother's age.

The writing style of this autobiographical novel is quite unique. The chapters of Eire's book seem to jump non-chronologically from one childhood instance in pre-Castro Cuba to anot
...more
Becky
Every student going into their sophomore year at my son's high school must read this book over the summer. I like keeping up with what my kids are reading, so I read it too. I would like to hear why this book was chosen, and am curious what the students will be quizzed on, regarding this book, in the fall.

I have several opinions about this book. First, it could have been interesting about the Cuban Revolution but every time the author came near some details or a complete story, the focus would
...more
Corinne
I found this on the shelf at the thrift store. I picked it up because my new brother in law is Cuban, having left Cuba as a child. So when I saw Havana on the spine - I paid my eighty cents, hoping to satiate some of my new curiosity in all things Cuban.

Of course, Carlos lived in Cuba long before my brother in law. Carlos was a child who knew Cuba before Fidel, before the Revolution, which makes his story that much harder to read. He knew what he was loosing, having grown up in a very privileged
...more
Nicole Means
I wanted to like this book--I really did!! However, the author's attempt at writing did not agree with me. His overly verbose descriptions of clouds, his constant pseudonym use for his parents, and his pompous attitude did not agree with me. I am very disappointed as I am looking for a good book on the history of Cuba and this is the second book on the topic that just left me disappointed. (I recently discarded "Telex from Cuba," a fictional book written about the same period in Cuba's history. ...more
Cheryl
Interesting structure to this book, reads like a bunch of short stories written in a conversational tone--which could be a good or bad thing depending on the reader, because the book doesn't follow a chronological order.

Carlos Eire was born in Cuba and grew up during Fidel Castro's reign. He and his brother joined thousands of Cuban orphans sent to the U.S. His mother joined him later and his father, a judge in Cuba, made a decision not to join Carlos and his brother (something the narrator rese
...more
Rob
My dad is a Cuban refugee and was part of the Pedro Pan lift. He left Cuba with his older sister when he was 9. My grandfather was one of the chiefs of police in Havana and was imprisoned by the Communists. His friends were all shot ("paredon! paredon!").

I've heard stories of Cuba *before* Castro, but precious few. Carlos Eire's memoir of Cuba before his emigration to the states filled in the world for me in a way that I had never understood it. I found myself asking my dad questions about rock
...more
Beth
Jan 22, 2013 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Beth by: find books by title or author or isbn
The world changed while I slept, and much to my surprise, no one had consulted me. That's how it would always be from that day forward. Of course, that's the way it had been all along, I just didn't know it until that morning. Surprise upon surprise: some good, some evil, most somewhere in between. And always without my consent.

I was barely eight years old, and I had spent hours dreaming of childish things, as children do. My father, who vividly remembered his prior life as King Louis XVI of Fra
...more
Susan
Subtitled “Confessions of a Cuban Boy,” this memoir first caught my eye because of the great title, then because it was written by one of the boys separated from his family during the early reign of Fidel Castro, during the Operation Pedro Pan exodus, an attempt to save children of those deemed against the Revolution, those most in danger.

The book almost lost me when the author along with other little boys, cruel as children often can be, started torturing lizards, symbolic of much to come. I ex
...more
Elizabeth K.
Another memoir, this one by a history professor at Yale who recounts his boyhood years in Cuba during the revolution. Being obsessed with Cuba myself, I found all the details about life among the privileged set of great interest. It was a little heavy-handed, I'm afraid. I would have preferred this one if he let the anecdotes stand on their own, but he seemed unable to resist underscoring all sorts of points that are very obvious. Little boys like to play with firecrackers, and then the bombs in ...more
Mel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave
My ambivalence about this book, I think, comes from my personal empathic paradox. On one hand, I try very hard to understand the pain a little boy thrust from his parents and country feels. On the other hand, I have an empathic failure when I try to feel sorrow for a privileged rich kid whose privilege and fortune didn't last. Eire's memoir, while nicely written, suffers from heavy-handed judgments that aren't clearly delineated between Eire's interchanging personas of backwards-looking adult an ...more
Victoria Hess
This book was chosen by a local book club, and I love to read cross-cultural stories, so I wait-listed it, missed the book club meeting, and finally got the book. Kind of wish the library had lost it.

Maybe if I were male, I would appreciate the book a lot more. The bulk of the book is spent on the author's 8th to 10th years in Havana as a rich, spoiled, and pretty rambunctious boy. He got off on having battles with breadfruit and stones and peashooters, all five boys shooting for the bottom of a
...more
Caroline
I've been putting off writing this review because I've been unable to decide how many stars this book should get: 4 or 5.

Well, Internet, the wait is over. I figured if I was this torn, why not give it the benefit of the doubt and go with the higher rating, so 5 it is.

There were multiple occasions in this book when I laughed so hard I cried - Eire does an absolutely magnificent job of reliving his upper-class Cuban childhood, to the point that I kind of want to ditch mine and have his instead (an
...more
Alicia
While reading this book, I realized that the neighborhood Carlos was taking about in Havana was mine, Miramar. I could not wait until the end of the book to track him down. A quick Google search found him teaching at Yale. I told him where I had lived and asked how close had his house been. He answered right back and it turns out he lived across Fifth Avenue from me and we played in the giant ficus trees on opposite ends of the same park!

As much as I enjoyed the book, for obvious reasons, the la
...more
Melinda
I enjoyed this memoir of a Cuban childhood. There were times I laughed out loud -- the chauffeurs with the pornographic magazines -- and there were times I was very moved -- Eire's description of his brother's struggle after leaving Cuba, for example. I did not feel this was an arrogant, privileged rich kid; rather, I sensed the author vividly conveyed typical childhood events and memories in an approachable, enjoyable voice. I especially liked the voice in the memoir -- smart and funny and trut ...more
Barbara A
My sentiments about this book are complicated. I adored the ending passages of each chapter, when the mature Eire reflects on his adult life. As much as I enjoyed the picaresque adventure of the boy Eire, they were repetitive and redundant, and could not match the soaring elegance and gracefulness of the former.

Still, this was a first-person glimpse into the old Cuba, and a first hand account of the ruination of a personal dream and of an entire country. For that, I am grateful and appreciative.
José Enrique Vivas M.
Enviado a Estados Unidos cuando apenas era un niño, en los inicios de la Revolución en Cuba, Carlos Eire narra episodios de su vida en el seno de una familia acomodada en La Habana, y de cómo su mundo se vino abajo en cuanto Fidel tomó el poder. Puede sentirse en cada episodio la dolorosa añoranza por un mundo de inocencia, de recuerdos gratos y otros no tanto, de felicidad perdida.

Me pierde un poco el narrador cuando mezcla sus pícaras reminiscencias de niño con disquisiciones religiosas de su
...more
Bookguide
Apr 13, 2015 Bookguide rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bookguide by: Violoncellix
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was full of local colour and the warmth of childhood recollection and nostalgia for a place and time that no longer exists. The childhood of Carlos Eire was a cross between unbelievable luxury, freedom to play wild and often cruel games with his friends and the usual unenjoyable restrictions of dressing up to visit. Fear entered the equation when his rich family became a target when the Cuban revolution started. Later, Carlos and his brother are evacuated t ...more
Mary Novaria
Mar 30, 2010 Mary Novaria rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mary by: Jeanie
Eire's memoir is utterly enchanting. His elegant and lively tales bring 1950s Havana to life. From boys-will-be-boys shenanigans involving lizards and fireworks, to a young man's hopes, dreams and darkest fears, a young Carlos quickly makes his way into the reader's heart.

Havana sparkles brightly in Eire's hands, a living-color Disneyland--colorful, sunny, glamorous and exciting--but turns grimly dark and threatening in Castro's shadow.

The book features quite a cast of quirky characters, not the
...more
Bach Tong
“The world changed while I slept, and nobody had consulted me.” Carlos Eire open his childhood memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana in a simply and beautifully profound way of indicating the theme of his book: Change!

Carlos Eire was born in Cuba in 1950. He was one of those fourteen thousands children, who fled Cuba to America in 1962 after Fidel Castro took over control of the government. Before reunited with his mother in Chicago in 1965, Carlos Eire had been through a series of foster home from
...more
Sharyl
It is not hard to understand why Carlos Eire's memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana won the 2003 National Book Award for nonfiction. It is beautifully written in a poetic style that I cannot compare to anyone else's. His boyhood memories come alive with perfectly balanced doses of hilarity and poignancy and they are fascinating.

Carlos Eire was born in Havana in 1950 and left in 1962, one of fourteen hundred children who arrived in the United States without their parents, airlifted out of Fidel Cast
...more
Michelle
This book was an average read in that it had some pretty great parts balanced out with some pretty dull parts. The whole story is remembrances of growing up in Cuba pre-Castro.

The first half captured me-I thought the author did a great job of writing so I could feel exactly what he felt and did as a child. It was an enlightening and educational view of Cuba that I had certainly never heard before.

Towards the middle, the author starts slipping back and forth between childhood and present day to
...more
Jessica Vaughan
Oct 25, 2007 Jessica Vaughan rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People looking for a frustrating read.
This book received a National Book Award and it appears I missed something crucial because I wouldn't have given it even one of those fake paper ribbon awards you get in elementary school for lining up single file for recess.

IMHO they tried to do too much with this story. What I thought I was getting was a coherent recount of a Cuban boy's experience being exiled to the US after Castro takes over. What I got was a confusing tale of a Cuban boy, a French King, his unknowing wife, a criminal adop
...more
Evan Clark
I read this hoping it would end up as a source for a research paper. Unfortunately it didn't contain the material I needed and I didn't get to list it. That said, I've very happy I read it, being one of the most beautiful memoirs of childhood I've come across.

Eire's life in pre-revolutionary Havana is anything but typical. The narrative combines history, art, spiritualism, and the kind of universal childhood nostalgia that can make this work accessible to anyone. While I won't go into detail (th
...more
Clare
Pure poetry. Except also prose. Gorgeous and also painful imagery. Simply a pleasure to read even when he shows you all the harsh and hurtful things. Fascinating history lessons sown throughout. Just read it.
Linda
Eire is a smug and arrogant narrator. I had no sympathy for or interest in him as a child or as a young adult and found much of the faux-poetic descriptions pretentious, except for the lizards. (Do publishers no longer fact check. RCA, Artur Rubinstein's exclusive record label, put out many Rubinstein compilations - but none entitled "President Eisenhower's Favorite Piano Pieces." Writers may misremember or fabricate out of creative license, but the obvious ought to be caught). If Eire weren't a ...more
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