(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“We explained that where we come from the greatest achievement is to leave.”
And leaving Cuba means reinventing oneself in a new country. The Tower of the Antilles is one of ten short stories centering on life unique to the Cuban experience.
Many stayed in Cuban communities in Miami. But some wanted to escape the claustrophobic, close-knit society and move further inside the U.S.
However, some stories center on those left behind in Cuba, many waiting for money and visas from family members already in the U.S.
Though there are some common threads throughout the tales, they are still quite diverse. A few deal with the LGBT experience. One woman moved to a college town in Indiana, fell in love with an emotionally unstable girl while fellow students await the inevitable annual coed murder. One young woman recounts her assimilation in Chicago, away from the expats in Miami. She states, “It’s just that Cubans are disoriented out of Cuba.” and how she can’t even relate to Chicago’s lesbian community.
One recent immigrant was introduced to Facebook, and was excited that she could find people she knew who left Cuba before she did.
There are a few stories taking place before and during the Cuban revolution. Those who didn’t participate and “jump up and down” were ostracized. There’s also a bizarre story of a famous Havana sex show that was frequented by American celebrities in the late 1950’s and the even crazier life of one well-endowed male performer.
As you can see, the stories are original and often provocative. As I finished one, I couldn’t wait to read the next. None of the stories disappointed. Though the first person narratives are quite personal, they stay clear of sentimentality. In fact, a dry, matter- of -fact style of humor is infused throughout the stories.
Author Achy Obejas emigrated to the U.S in the early 1960s when she was six years old. I love her writing style and hope to read more from her.