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Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  5,112 Ratings  ·  793 Reviews
In 1962, at the age of eleven, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, his parents left behind. His life until then is the subject of Waiting for Snow in Havana, a wry, heartbreaking, intoxicatingly beautiful memoir of growing up in a privileged Havana household -- and of being exiled from his own childhood by the Cuban revolution.

That childhood, unti
...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 13th 2004 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2003)
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Abby
Dec 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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
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
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Jill
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Christine Schaffer
Oct 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
This was one of the worst books I have read in quite some time. I had hoped to learn more about the overthrow of Batista and the rise of Castro and the Revolution, but instead had to plow through the memories of an unlikable eight to twelve-year-old boy. Eire's constant references to how privileged he was and how influenced he was by American pop culture grew very tiresome. After the first several stories about the movies and comics he liked, the swimming clubs he frequented, the lizards he kill ...more
Mary
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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Becky
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Nicole Means
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jessica Vaughan
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Rob
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
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
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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
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
Tress Huntley
Jun 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really don't care for this star rating system. It seems so inappropriate, like we're reviewing refrigerators or something.

I don't really know how to "rate" this book. It was herky jerky, sometimes interesting but sometimes a yawn, and I never could tell at what moment that transition would occur next. Which, to me, made it a great read. But the sections that were boring, were really boring. Mostly those were the idyllic childhood sections: the anecdotes from his pampered, rich kid experience
...more
Pamela
Oct 05, 2016 added it
Shelves: book-club
Incomplete, I've closed the book. I think it's important to read about cultures, heritages, life experiences, nations and societies different than our own. It gives us opportunity to learn and empathise, be connected with all of humanity on a grander scale. However, I cannot abide the Lord's name blasphemed, repetitively and flippantly. It breaks my heart beyond compare. That is the reason I relinquish reading this book to completion.

Unfinished, unrated.
Hai Quan
Nov 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
If you don't know what is CARGOISM, please consult a dictionary. I did, and if I am not remember or understand it incorrectly, it means a passion for material largess dropping down from the sky by US airplanes.The recipients of the goods were the barbarians of some remote island, who thought the cargoes were from some gods, not human.Year after year , they were waiting for more similar goods from the sky, and since they have never seen any more, they have been performing some kind of ritual danc ...more
Susan
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Victoria Hess
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Alex
Jul 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book won an award? This book is 385 pages too long. If you are looking to learn about what it was like to live at the time of revolution and transition in Cuba as I was, this is not the book for you. Have you ever been in a conversation you're trying to get out of because the subject matter doesn't concern you and is completely uninteresting? Prepare for 385 pages of that.

Prepare to learn in great detail where the author obtained his comic books or what flavor of ice cream he preferred. Th
...more
Elizabeth K.
Oct 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007-new-reads
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
Dave
Jul 08, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Alicia
Apr 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cuba
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
Daniel
Oct 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
My father was nine when he came to the US from Cuba - a bit too young for the vivid memories and images in 'Waiting for snow...' Glad to be able to experience the country of his birth through this book
Danielle
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I normally don't enjoy memoirs, but I could not put this book down. I think a lot of my attraction was based on a recent trip to Cuba, and wanting to know more of the pre-Fidel era. This memoir, really a love story to the old Cuba, was beautifully written with vivid childhood memories of a wonderful home. Several passages spoke to me, but one in particular stands out: "But Havana was not the United States. That was the beauty of it, and the horror. So much freedom, so little freedom. Freedom to ...more
Bookguide
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Beth
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Michelle
Mar 11, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Judith
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
I travelled to Cuba last year on an "educational tour" to get an inside glimpse of the country and it's people now. Eire's description of his childhood there is much different, of course, and after so many years in the US. Even though some of his early experiences were interesting, I had some hopes that this story would be more about Carlos adaptation of his life to America after coming here as a young boy.

Rather it was of his privileged home life in Cuba and his experiences before leaving and
...more
Claire
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Now, admittedly, I have always had a very low patience for memoirs. I feel like they never get to the point.
The reason this one made it past a single star is that it corresponds with what I learned in World History and Communism so precisely, and it's almost like my World Communism text (The Spider Eaters) except the setting is a little different, and the memoirist is male, not female.

Possibly my distaste spreads past memoir rambling/sexism and it reflects my ancient discomfort with the Spanish
...more
Melinda
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
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a book that mentions this marvelous book 1 3 Aug 25, 2016 08:40AM  
Waitng for Snow in Havana 1 44 Dec 12, 2009 09:42PM  
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“they dance so fast, good and evil, these two polar opposites. So tightly and furiously. You can’t dance with just one of these partners. If you cut into their dance, you end up with both, as a threesome. And if you fear cutting into the dance and taking a spin with good and evil, you end up dancing with the cross-eyed, ugly chaperone. Even the deepest, most wondrous love can sometimes bring you to that dismal dance, and then every single tune is a tango. A bad tango composed by an angry, drunken Argentine just for you and your loved one. A tango that never ends. But back to those Cuban parties: no dancing there. None at all. Furious” 4 likes
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