Review: In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menendez

TITLE: In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd
AUTHOR: Ana Menendez
RATING: 2.5 / 5
ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: It’s about a bunch of stories about the Cuban community living in Miami as they continue to remember their homeland, Cuba.

I thought I would enjoy this novel. No, I thought I would LOVE it. I wanted to love this novel just because it had to do with the two things I know about since I was born; living in Miami and being Cuban. I don’t know if it’s because some of it hits too close to home or I’m just inundated by the constant news about Cuba and Cubans, but I didn’t love it and that makes me sad and it pains me to give it 2.5/5.

This is a collection of eleven short stories mainly about Cuban Americans living in Miami. Here’s the problem with short stories, or at least in this collection, it doesn’t give you enough time to explore the characters much less form an attachment to any of them. In some ways, the stories felt superficial, like the author remembered stuff that Cubans went or have gone through and put it in the book with pretty words with no real emotion behind them. In other words the story doesn’t come from a personal place.

It’s also vague. Extremely vague! I hate it’s vagueness because then everything is left to interpretation, and sometimes that’s not enough for me. She never outright says “so and so is cheating on this person” or “so and so lied” it’s left for you to determine, and although it can be fun guessing what an author meant, I also find it infuriating. With each story I was left wondering what happened or asking myself “what am I supposed to get out of this? What am I supposed to learn from this?”

Some of it sounds forced, especially when she talks about Cuba. Again, I think it’s because the Cuba that I know and the one she knows (or was told about) are very different. I think this makes the book sound pretentious. I think she used beautiful language and vague endings in the hopes that someone will say, “ooh that’s deep.”

NinaFor a story that claims to be about the Cuban exiled community, I couldn’t connect to it as much as I wished. I think it’s because the author chose to focus on the generation that came right after Castro took over. Here’s where I get personal. I am not from that generation. My family is not from that generation. My parents lived in Cuba for a majority of their lives before deciding to move to the states 16 years ago at the turn of the millennium. Obviously, our ideas and our experiences are MUCH different from the one Menendez writes about in her book. That’s not to say that I haven’t met people who are exactly like the people in her book, but they’re not my experiences.

Okay, this has been the meanest review I’ve ever written, but at least I’m being honest. I liked a total of 2.5 stories: “In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd”, “Confusing the Saints”, “Hurricane Stories”, and “Her Mother’s House”. Mostly, because I connected in some way or the other with them. I will also agree and say that her prose and imagery is beautiful, and at times they made me stop and just admire her writing. For these reasons I feel like I can’t give her 2 stars, but it’s far from being in my top ten books.

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