Non­fic­tion

Jubana! The Awk­ward­ly True and Daz­zling Adven­tures of a Jew­ish Cuban Goddess

Gigi Anders
  • Review
By – August 16, 2012
Hold on to your hat! You’re in for a fre­net­ic, caf­feine-pow­ered roller coast­er ride. Jubana reminds me of the old fun house on the beach in San Fran­cis­co. You were greet­ed by a mechan­i­cal woman who nev­er stopped laugh­ing. You knew that if you paid for a tick­et and went through the door, you’d have a great time. How­ev­er, there was some­thing dark lurk­ing around the next bend that always kept you just a lit­tle on edge. 

In Novem­ber of 1960, two years after the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion, Ana and David Anders board­ed a plane head­ed for Mia­mi. Pri­or to their depar­ture, Castro’s gov­ern­ment had uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly relieved them of their home, their assets and their pro­fes­sions. They took with them only what they could car­ry, includ­ing their pre­co­cious tod­dler, Rebe­ca Beat­riz Anders y Benes, oth­er­wise known as Gigi. 

The Anders fam­i­ly, unlike most of the Cuban exiles in the U.S., set­tled in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. where they coped with the loss of afflu­ence, fam­i­ly and cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty. The trop­i­cal Cuban cli­mate was replaced with cold win­ters. They railed furi­ous­ly against Cas­tro for destroy­ing every­thing dear to them. Gigi, despite her young age, expe­ri­enced the tumult and loss along with her par­ents. She also felt aban­doned by the adults who, busy build­ing a new life, often left her either in the care of oth­ers or to her own devices. She might have been extra­or­di­nar­i­ly intel­lec­tu­al­ly pre­co­cious, but she was com­plete­ly unpre­pared for being trans­port­ed to a new plan­et where the chil­dren are of anoth­er species and the insti­tu­tions that edu­cate them are not pre­pared to meet the needs of a pas­sion­ate, cre­ative young Jubana. 

The Awk­ward­ly True and Daz­zling Adven­tures” live up to their sub­ti­tle. From her first days in kinder­garten, sport­ing new glass­es and ortho­pe­dic shoes, to a near miss with her mother’s dream of Gigi in a cham­pagne-col­ored taffe­ta wed­ding gown, Anders uses humor and high­ly col­or­ful lan­guage to cre­ate a mes­mer­iz­ing, bit­ter­sweet account of her life to date. Gigi’s sto­ry­telling bounces around like a col­or­ful rub­ber ball and it’s exhil­a­rat­ing, but at times a bit dizzy­ing. Some of the themes are repet­i­tive and got a bit old. These are, how­ev­er, small issues when con­trast­ed to the over­all impact of Jubana. 

This is an unusu­al­ly exu­ber­ant and hon­est piece of writ­ing. You will get to know Gigi and her fam­i­ly, warts and all. Gigi’s Mami is a huge pres­ence in the book, which is lit­tered with her unfor­get­table Spang­lish quips. To Gigi, she is her clas­si­cal­ly beau­ti­ful, über-glam­orous mom, impos­si­ble to live with and impos­si­ble to live up to. How­ev­er, by the time you fin­ish this book, you’ll know that Gigi has become a woman who is just as beau­ti­ful, inter­est­ing and col­or­ful. She is tru­ly unique or as Gigi and Mami would put it, Jooneek.” 
Nao­mi Tropp recent­ly retired after a long career in non­prof­it man­age­ment. She worked on the Ann Katz Fes­ti­val of Books at the Indi­anapo­lis JCC for 9 of its twelve years and direct­ed the fes­ti­val for three of those years.

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