Questions of personal and national identity percolate through the stories in Obejas’s (Ruins) memorable short fiction collection, most of which is set in Cuba, the author’s birthplace. In “The Cola of Oblivion,” a family of Cuban nationals try to cajole the American daughter of a counterrevolutionary relative into a contrived scheme to help them emigrate by claiming her family has a moral obligation to them. “Supermán” is the tale of a Cuban sex worker whose unbridled libido is equated with the freewheeling spirit of the prerevolutionary nation. The narrator of “The Maldives,” who grew up in overcrowded familial living arrangements in Cuba, decides to move to an underpopulated location when she is diagnosed with a brain tumor that will eventually “leave me trapped in my own body.” Some of the stories are more collections of impressions than straightforward narratives, but all are distinguished by the author’s skill at fixing their moments in piquant imagery: for example, a character in “Waters” says of her acclimation to the simmering climate of Cuba, “I am as comfortable in this state of humidity, as at home in it as if I were in amniotic fluid.” These 10 stories show Obejas’s talent, illuminating Cuban culture and the innermost lives of her characters.
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