We open on the seminal story: the American artist meets the Cuban student in Trinidad, and asks her to marry him. “Enchanted Air,” is the memoir of their younger daughter, Margarita, who flies between these two places, trying to understand how she can be from multiple worlds.
In the woodsy home they make for themselves in the Western United States, she attends school, and learns of her love for reading. Here, her father’s Jewish family tells of an escape to the United States where freedom from oppression was found. In the lush green hills of Cuba, surrounded by her mother’s relatives and joys she knows nowhere else, she flies forward on horses but wonders why there it seems the boys have more freedoms. Her mother’s land is not one to be escaped, but rather adored.
Reading this poetic memoir, it’s easy to fall into the narrative and put aside the author’s awards to focus on the confused pre-teen navigating so many familiar and so many foreign waters. How can loyalties be torn? Why are the things so important to other children not on Margarita’s radar? Is she more like ancient cave dwellers who wrote poems on walls than like the popular girls in school? Can she grow just as fully once she can no longer visit Cuba? For a young reader, age 12 and up, the awkward years of first kisses and how not to wear your hair are no less critical than the terror of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Just as you emerge from the world of these stories with the final question: “When?” recall that today Cuba is once again open for U.S. visitors.