Days of Awe: A Novel

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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.
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About the author

Like her heroine, Achy Obejas was born in Havana and came to the United States as a young child. She is a cultural writer for the Chicago Tribune. Her articles have appeared in Vogue, The Nation, Ms. Latina, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Reader, Girlfriend, High Performance, New City, and Chicago Reporter. She is the author of Memory Mambo, a novel, and We Came All the Way from Cuba So You could Dress Like This?, a collection of short stories. She is a frequent speaker at universities and community centers across the country and in Cuba.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Ballantine Books
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Published on
Dec 18, 2007
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Pages
400
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ISBN
9780307414946
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Jewish
Fiction / Literary
Fiction / Sagas
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A true believer is faced with a choice between love for his family and the Cuban Revolution.

"Daring, tough, and deeply compassionate, Achy Obejas's Ruins is a breathtaker. Obejas writes like an angel, which is to say: gloriously . . . one of the Cuba's most important writers."
—Junot Diaz, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

"In the Havana of Ruins, scarcity can only be fought with ingenuity, and the characters work very hard at the exquisite art of getting by. The plot rests on the schemes of its weary, obsessive, dreamy hero—a character so brilliantly drawn that he can't be dismissed or forgotten. A tender and wildly accurate portrait, in a gem of a novel."
—Joan Silber, author of The Size of the World

"Obejas evinces a new, focused lyricism as she penetrates to the very heart of the Cuban paradox in a story as pared down and intense as its narrator's life."
—Booklist (*starred review*)

"Compassionate and intriguing . . . Obejas plays out [the book's] conflicts in measured, simple prose, allowing her descriptions of the mundane—houses, food, dominoes—to illuminate a setting filled with heartbreak, confusion and decay . . . At her best, Obejas controls the mixture of humor and pathos that suffuse this poor community."
—Los Angeles Times

"Ruins is a beautifully written novel, a moving testament to the human spirit of an unlikely hero who remains unbroken even as the world collapses around him . . . A fine literary achievement, it's Achy Obejas at her very best."
—El Paso Times

"[A] superb novel . . . Highly recommended."
—Library Journal

"[An] honest and superbly written book."
—Miami Herald

"With the deft and evocative detail of a poet's, Obejas's prose is as illuminating and honest as her struggling protagonist."
—Publishers Weekly

Usnavy has always been a true believer. When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, he was just a young man and eagerly signed on for all of its promises. But as the years have passed, the sacrifices have outweighed the glories and he's become increasingly isolated in his revolutionary zeal. His friends openly mock him, his wife dreams of owning a car totally outside their reach, and his beloved fourteen-year-old daughter haunts the coast of Havana, staring north.

In the summer of 1994, a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government allows Cubans to leave at will and on whatever will float. More than 100,000 flee—including Usnavy's best friend. Things seem to brighten when he stumbles across what may or may not be a priceless Tiffany lamp that reveals a lost family secret and fuels his long repressed feelings . . . But now Usnavy is faced with a choice between love for his family and the Revolution that has shaped his entire life.

Achy Obejas is the author of various books, including the award-winning novel Days of Awe and the best-selling poetry chapbook This Is What Happened in Our Other Life. She is the editor of Akashic's critically acclaimed crime-fiction anthology Havana Noir, and the translator (into Spanish) for Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Currently, she is the Sor Juana Writer in Residence at DePaul University in Chicago. She was born in Havana and continues to spend extended time there.


The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller

This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.

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In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

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