Dreaming in Cuban Essay - Critical Overview

Cristina Garcia

Critical Overview

Dreaming in Cuban has received critical attention and has been used in graduate and undergraduate literature courses. Stylistically, it uses elements of magical realism, sensual lyricism that borders on poetry, the epistolary form, and first-person narrative. The novel shifts back and forth in time, but does not interrupt the flow of reading: this formally illustrates the troubled continuum of the women in the del Pino family. Iraida H. Lopez writes:

The structure of the novel reinforces the decentralizing spirit that animates the text. Narrative techniques are deployed parallel to the themes to show the range of perceptions and interpretations constructed by these women about the forces—historical, political, patriarchal, cultural, and personal—that shape their lives.

The novel's most profound statements are on history, memory, and identity. Although there are characters who are polarized politically (i.e., Celia and Lourdes), Garcia shows that being Cuban or Cuban-American is not stereotypical by graying the characters' interpretation of the political opposition between the two cultures, namely through Pilar. With the focus on the individual, rather than larger historical focus on developments like the Cuban Revolution, the reader sees how personal history and identity are not limited to nationalism and ethnicity. Still, each character is subject to ideology and Pilar is subject to her manifested nostalgia for a Cuba that no longer exists. In the end, she must negotiate this nostalgia and discover that bridging the gap between being Cuban and American cannot be accomplished via nostalgia or migration: it is a mental social construct that is personally created, and because of political divides, it is always elusive.

Finding individualism in mass movements has been a force in literary analysis and social criticism in America since the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s. Each character has her own questions about the patriarchal and politically dominated historical record. Here we have a feminist and, more importantly, an individualist perspective on history. When Lourdes returns to Cuba, she revisits the place where she was raped:

What she fears most is this: that her rape, her baby's death were absorbed quietly by the earth, that they are ultimately no more meaningful than falling leaves on an autumn day. She hungers for a violence of nature, terrible and permanent, to...

(The entire section is 1014 words.)