Saturday, January 31, 2009

On "Life on the Hyphen" by Gustavo Perez Firmat ****

This was my second time reading Perez Firmat's book on Cuban American culture, and my third time through the book. The first time, I merely skimmed, slowing down for the introduction to get the gist of the argument so that I could discuss it among other books and concepts in a presentation I had to make about Cubans in the United States in a graduate class. But my interest was peaked, and a few years later, when I came across the book in a used bookstore, I picked it up for cheap and read it from start to finish. Now, eight years later, I picked it up again, and over the last few weeks have been reviewing the materials inside.

At its strongest, the book gives readers a view of some prominent people in the Cuban American world. The chapters on Desi Arnez, Gloria Estefan, and Oscar Hijuelos are the most interesting to me, perhaps because these are the people with whom I'm the most familiar. Getting more background about their lives and art, in addition to a thorough analysis of what that art says about the one-and-a-half generation that is much of Perez Firmat's focus--those born in Cuba but who grow up in the United States. This is literary criticism and this is, at times, written university professor speak, so it's not quick reading, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

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