Spared Angola: Memories from a Cuban-American Childhood

Virgil Suarez, Author Arte Publico Press $11.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-55885-197-9
This is a tough little nugget of a book that sometimes sparkles. In an impressionistic autobiography, Suarez (Going Under) recounts memories of his youth, and particularly of his father. A policeman under the Batista dictatorship, Suarez's father was unhappy with his position in Castro's new society: he became angry both at being branded an anti-revolutionary and at the demeaning jobs open to him. Determined that his son will not be conscripted to serve in Angola (""Cuba's Vietnam""), he chose exile. As in many Cuban extended families, there was a rift, as some chose to stay and support the revolution, while others left. Ironically, in their attempt to save him from war, his parents had to subject him to a lifetime of violence on the mean streets of L.A. It would seem, in fact, that his young life was informed by violence and separation. This slim volume is studded with poetry that adds depth to the characters and the action but also stands alone. One of the most effective poems is ""After the Accident,"" which describes his rocky relationship with his father during the older Suarez's odyssey from Cuban cop to American factory worker to the shattered man who had been defeated not by governments but by a 576-pound pallet that broke his body. With short chapters that flow fluidly between the first and the third person, Suarez reflects on 36 years as an outsider and on the memories--and the record of them--that kept him sane. (June)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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