Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Broken Paradise

I finished reading this book a couple of nights ago, and I can fully and wholeheartedly recommend it. 
Cecilia Samartin's novel has touched me in a profound way, and I can't wait to read her other books.  (I'm currently reading Tarnished Beauty.) The Norwegian translatation is called Drømmehjerte.
This story is about Nora, a young Cuban girl who is growing up before the revolution, and who emigrates with her family to the US when Castro takes over the country.
It's about love for your homeland, regret and the ability to keep up hope.  It's about family and other relationships, who can be both wonderful and difficult.  It's about loyalty and standing up for the ones you love.
But, in addition to all this, it is a lesson in Cuban history, geography and culture.  I have to admit that I knew far too little of this country before reading Samartin's book.
Being from Norway, a small country on the outskirts of the world, I have always met lots of ignorance about my homeland.  Some will have no clue to where it is, others will know it is in Europe, but confound it with Denmark or Finland, and yet others will think Norway is the capital of Sweden...  This ignorance has always annoyed me, and I feel ashamed when I realize how little I know about Cuba, and lots of other countries in the world.
I long to know the Cuba from before.  The beautiful, cultural and amazing island I get a glimpse of here, before it's all downhill...  I would love to taste the food, hear the music, speak to the people.
Reading Broken Paradise while watching the suffering of the Haitian people, has also been strange.  They are almost neighboring countries, and even if I know we are talking about very different cultures, there are some similarities:  Islands in the Caribbean, very mixed population, once European colonies with African slaves, lots of government issues, extreme poverty and ridiculous wealth. And, I have some ideas about Haiti, since members of my family used to live on the same island, in the Dominican Republic.
I will learn more about Cuba, I will definitively learn Spanish.  (I'm sure about that one), and maybe I'll go there one day, writing about it, making photographs, telling my fellow Norwegians about it.
Thank you, Cecilia Samartin, for opening my eyes!

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