Study Guide

Dreaming in Cuban Transformations

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It's kind of a field day for us to talk about transformations in a book that so heavily employs magical realism. In Dreaming in Cuban we have gigantic blue grandpas wearing panama hats and walking on water, women who seem restful and gorgeous one moment and channeling divine spirits the next. Easy peasy. But there are other, more hidden metamorphoses that reside primarily in the psychological realm. We see this in Pilar's ability to hear the roots of trees as she is assaulted and Celia's movement from a vibrant woman to a fragile woman who relies on her imagination and the changes of the sea to comfort her. There are also larger transformations to consider, like the violent movements that shape the earth and the violence across the world that alters human life on a daily basis. These are, perhaps, not as flashy as a little old religious lady spontaneously combusting on the front lawn, but they are part of a continuum of change that marks the lives of the characters in García's work.

Questions About Transformations

  1. How does García signal a change in the life or personality of a character? Does she simply report it? Is there a process or pattern she initiates when a character is going through a transformative period?
  2. Why do you think García uses magical realism in her work? What is the purpose of having the supernatural coexist so closely with the mundane?
  3. What do you think is the significance of Celia's two final, significant actions? Why does she surrender her earrings and her letters to Gustavo?
  4. How often do the transformations in this novel come from external sources? Internal ones? What does this say about the nature of change?

Chew on This

Change—from revolution to personal alteration—causes upheaval that more often than not proves catastrophic for the characters.

The more fantastic metamorphoses in Dreaming in Cuban occur not just to shock and horrify, but as physical manifestations of deeper psychological and spiritual activity.

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