Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Telling It to the Dead: Borderless Communication and Scars of Trauma in Cristina Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Telling It to the Dead: Borderless Communication and Scars of Trauma in Cristina Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban

Article excerpt


Cristina Garcia's novel Dreaming in Cuban (1992) is preoccupied with the three key stages in the title of this volume: "healing, working through, and/or staying in trauma". This article contextualises the novel by referring to the life history of the character Lourdes Puente and the trauma of her exile and exodus from Cuba. A scar on her stomach inscribes a rape, a miscarriage and her failed attachment to her mother Celia. It is suggested that the scar constitutes a visible representation of her trauma designed to prevent her experiences from remaining permanently repressed and unclaimed. Only when Lourdes starts a series of conversations with her deceased father is she able to relate to the wound/scar and to pose questions about her trauma. This article addresses the traumatically marked literary language used to depict Lourdes's experiential world, and discusses how death, or rather the company of her dead father, turns into a safe space in which she confronts her traumatic past and heals herself. The article also considers how the novel participates in processes of healing and reconciliation in a wider Cuban context.


Cristina Garcia se roman Dreaming in Cuban (1992) handel oor die drie sleutelfases in die titel van hierdie bundel, naamlik genesing, verwerking en/of om getraumatiseerd te bly ("healing, working through, and or staying in trauma"). Hierdie artikel kontekstualiseer die roman deur te wys op die lewensgeskiedenis van die karakter Lourdes Puente en die trauma van haar verbanning en eksodus uit Kuba. 'n Letsel op haar maag is 'n ingegriffe teken van haar verkragting, miskraam en mislukte verhouding met haar moeder Celia. Daar word beweer dat hierdie letsel 'n sigbare voorstelling van haar trauma is, wat verhoed dat sy haar wedervarings kan onderdruk en ontken. Eers wanneer Lourdes verskeie gesprekke met haar oorlede vader begin voer, is sy in staat om die letsel met haar trauma in verband te bring en vrae daaroor te begin vra. Hierdie artikel gee aandag aan die literere taal waarop trauma sy spore afgedruk het en waarmee Lourdes se ervaringsw6reld uitgebeeld word. Daar is 'n bespreking van hoe die dood, of trouens die geselskap van haar oorlede vader, 'n veilige ruimte word waarin sy haar traumatiese verlede konfronteer en genesing vind. Verder verken die artikel ook hoe hierdie roman in 'n wyer Kubaanse verband bydra tot genesing en versoening.

Healing, working through, and/or staying in trauma--all three stages are present in Cristina Garcia's 1992 novel Dreaming in Cuban. The framework of Garcia's novel is the general Cuban trauma of exile and exodus relating to the 1959 overthrow of Dictator Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro's coming to power, and the text portrays the divisive effects that these occurrences had on families and individuals. While trauma can certainly be discussed in relation to all four female protagonists, this article focuses on the character of Lourdes Puente, who is deeply--and doubly--traumatised by her mother's abandonment of her as a child and the rape she suffered in connection with the appropriation of her husband's property. Added to these traumatic experiences is that which Isabel Alvarez Borland terms the "trauma of displacement" (1998: 121), which in Lourdes's case is complex as her arrival in the US is experienced as a relief. What I explore in relation to Lourdes is whether communication and articulation--concepts regarded by many as necessary for healing and the working through of trauma--are rendered ineffective if what you tell is told to the dead. Alternatively, can words told across the borders of life and death be one way of working through trauma?

Dreaming in Cuban brings together themes of dual identities, translation between cultures and languages, exilic Cuban lives and shattered families as a result of both revolution and imperialism. The masterly prose of the novel has secured its important position within the now significant corpus of US Latina/o fiction. …

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