Carlos Eire, Yale history professor, talks about his memoirs at Yale Bookstore

Carlos Eire

Carlos Eire, a history professor at Yale and author of numerous books and two memoirs, will be appearing at the Yale Bookstore at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 9.

His first memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana, is the story of his experience as one 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba in 1962—exiled from his family, his country, and his own childhood by the revolution. The memories of Carlos’s life in Havana, cut short when he was just eleven years old, are at the heart of this stunning, evocative, and unforgettable memoir.

Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos’s youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959. Suddenly the music in the streets sounds like gunfire. Christmas is made illegal, political dissent leads to imprisonment, and too many of Carlos’s friends are leaving Cuba for a place as far away and unthinkable as the United States. Carlos will end up there, too, and fulfill his mother’s dreams by becoming a modern American man—even if his soul remains in the country he left behind.

Waiting for Snow in Havana became a bestseller and won the National Book Award, although it is still banned in Cuba. The book literally ends in mid-air as Carlos is flying to his new life.

Learning to Die in Miami, published in 2010, opens as the plane lands and Carlos faces, with trepidation and excitement, his new life. He quickly realizes that in order for his new American self to emerge, his Cuban self must “die.” And so, with great enterprise and purpose, he begins his journey.

We follow Carlos as he adjusts to life in his new home. Faced with learning English, attending American schools, and an uncertain future, young Carlos confronts the age-old immigrant’s plight: being surrounded by American bounty, but not able to partake right away. The abundance America has to offer excites him and, regardless of how grim his living situation becomes, he eagerly forges ahead with his own personal assimilation program, shedding the vestiges of his old life almost immediately, even changing his name to Charles. Cuba becomes a remote and vague idea in the back of his mind, something he used to know well, but now it “had ceased to be part of the world.”

Carlos Eire received his PhD from Yale in 1979, and specializes in the social, intellectual, religious, and cultural history of late medieval and early modern Europe, with a strong focus on both the Protestant and Catholic Reformations; the history of popular piety; and the history of death.

 

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