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Book Review

Life as a Footnote

Carlos Eire’s new memoir explores life after leaving Cuba in the 1962 airlift that brought thousands of children stateside without their parents.

En español | Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy won Carlos Eire the 2003 National Book Award in Nonfiction. The memoir of his boyhood in Cuba was, said the Yale professor of history and religious studies, “his first book without footnotes.” Now he’s back with Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy, the next chapter in his life story — again without footnotes.

Waiting for Snow told the story of Eire’s boyhood in Cuba before and after the revolution. In his new book, the reader accompanies him to the United States as he and his older brother, Tony, become part of Operation Peter (or Pedro) Pan, a 1962 airlift that brought thousands of Cuban children stateside without their parents. The shattering transition imposed on 11-year-old Carlos sets him off on a tumultuous journey, one filled with multiple foster families, emerging identities, two languages and a host of battling desires. When he arrives in Florida with the other children, he experiences the first of several “deaths” he says he passed through in the States: the painful process of leaving an old self behind in order to forge a new one.
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