Impossible Returns:
Narratives of the Cuban Diaspora

Iraida H. López

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"Soulfully researched and elegantly written, the personal and the critical converge into a reading of Cuban American memoirs by 'one-and-a-halfers,' those in a generation who left the island in childhood and early adolescence."--Eliana S. Rivero, author of Discursos desde la diaspora

"Timely and salient. In addition to tracing the trajectory of narratives of return, this study puts into relief the idea that there is no singular process of return."--Andrea O'Reilly Herrera, author of Cuban Artists across the Diaspora: Setting the Tent against the House

"Outstanding. López's interpretation of the narratives of the émigré's real or imagined returns to their homeland is insightful, sensitive, well documented, and informed by current debates about diasporas, exile, transnationalism, and identity."--Jorge Duany, author of Blurred Borders: Transnational Migration between the Hispanic Caribbean and the United States


While the stories and resettlement patterns of Cubans who have left their home island have been widely documented, the subject of return in the Cuban diaspora remains understudied.

In this one-of-a-kind volume, Iraida López explores various narratives of return by those who left Cuba as children or adolescents. Including memoirs, semi-autobiographical fiction, and visual arts, many of these accounts feature a physical arrival on the island while others depict a metaphorical or vicarious experience by means of fictional characters or childhood reminiscences. As two-way migration increases in the post-Cold War period, many of these narratives put to the test the boundaries of national identity.

Through a critical reading of works by Cuban American artists and writers like María Brito, Ruth Behar, Carlos Eire, Cristina García, Ana Mendieta, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Ernesto Pujol, Achy Obejas, and Ana Menéndez, López highlights the affective ties as well as the tensions underlying the relationship between returning subjects and their native country. Impossible Returns also looks at how Cubans still living on the island depict returning émigrés in their own narratives, addressing works by Jesús Díaz, Humberto Solás, Carlos Acosta, Nancy Alonso, Leonardo Padura, and others. Blurring the lines between disciplines and geographic borders, this book underscores the centrality of Cuba for its diaspora and bears implications for other countries with widespread populations in exile.

Iraida H. López is professor of Spanish and Latino/a and Latin American studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
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This challenging, exquisitely written book is a must for those fascinated by those who left the island in the pursuit of their freedom. An engrossing read. . . . Highly recommended. -- Choice

Captures, in critical form, the struggles and aspirations of an entire generation of Cuban immigrants, and at the same time deconstructs the reality of what had been figured as an impossibility: the search, the reconstruction and remedy of the losses suffered due to exile and displacement. -- Casa de las Américas

Essential to the discussion of the Cuban 1.5 generation’s relationship to their receiving countries, to the island, to the exile/immigrant community, and to their own mediated memory of the last two....Elegantly weave[s] through narrations of different genres and create[s] a more comprehensive definition of the one-and-a-half generation of Cuban Americans and of the lasting effects of forced migrations in general. -- Cuba Counterpoints

An outstanding contribution to the field of diasporic writings in general, and the Cuban diaspora in particular. . . . Reminds the reader how closely related the personal and political are. It recognizes that there are many ways of returning, and how the co-presence of the past and the present are remembered and articulated. -- Hispania

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