An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, Ruth Behar's 2007 memoir of her journey to Cuba to reconnect with the Jewish community her family had left behind in 1959, reveals a multilayered intersection between genres of life writing, ethnography, and cultural criticism. The text, a collage of historical data, personal essays, interviews, and photographs by the Cuban photographer Humberto Mayol, reveals stories of survival of the Jews in Cuba through the lens of the author's negotiation with her own Jewish identity. In this essay, I read An Island Called Home as a document that straddles several life writing genres (travel writing, the narrative of return, the family narrative, and personal criticism) and, crucially, embodies Behar's decades-long engagement with the epistemological paradigms of her profession, her identity, and sense of connection with Jewishness in the Latin American context. I argue that this text culminates Behar's central ethnographic project, which evolved from the engagement with an individual family story to one that necessarily included the Jewish community in Cuba.


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pp. 263-286
Launched on MUSE
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