Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada

Valdes, Zoe. Yocandra in the Paradise of Nada: a Novel of Cuba. New York: Arcade Publishing, 1995

Reason read: June is Caribbean Heritage Month & Yocandra takes place mostly in Cuba.

Meet Yocandra. She is a woman with an identity crisis. Born Patria, at sixteen she develops a rebellious streak and marries an author turned philosopher who takes her away from her beloved Cuba for some time. She is a wild child, fiery and passionate, just like her homeland. I don’t know how to explain the rest of this short novel. Yocandra’s second marriage ends in death & so at an early age she is a widow. That doesn’t slow her down in the least. She has two lovers, the Nihilist and the Traitor. At best, Yocandra is a handful, and all one can hope to do is just try to keep up with her.

Lines worth mentioning, “There I was, a tiny little lump slimy with maternal gook, wrapped in the Cuban flag, and already my father was scolding me for failing to fulfill my revolutionary duty” (p 11), “What sin has a people committed that causes the sea to demand expiation?” (p 54), “In my heart I’m still more Cuban than the palm trees and no one can ever change that” (p 90), and “Apparently our politics can be determined from our excrement” (p 152).

Author fact: Yocandra is Valdes’s first novel.

Book trivia: Yocandra was translated from the Spanish by Sabina Cienfuegos. She includes notes about references and Spanish dialect used in Cuba. Very useful. Another detail of note – this could be considered a short story being barely 150 pages in length.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cuba Si!” (p 68).



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