Beacon Press: Family Sentence
Login Cart

Family Sentence

The Search for My Cuban-Revolutionary, Prison-Yard, Mythic-Hero, Deadbeat Dad

Author: Jeanine Cornillot

A humorous and poignant memoir of a Cuban-American girlhood lived between cultures and in the shadow of a father’s incarceration

Jeanine Cornillot was just two years old when her father, a former Cuban revolutionary turned anti-Castro militant, was sentenced to thirty years in a Florida prison for political bombings. Although he was physically absent throughout her childhood, his presence loomed large in her and her brothers’ imaginations. Keeping his incarceration secret outside the family, each child conjured a different father, yet all believed in his mythic stature as a hero.

Jeanine’s Irish-American mother struggled to support the family on her own in suburban Philadelphia and send her kids to a school where the nuns questioned her ability to raise four children without a father. Summers, she put Jeanine on a plane to Little Havana, where she lived with her Spanish-speaking grandparents and bilingual cousin-a sometimes unreliable translator. It was there in Florida that she met her father face to face, in the prison yards.

As Cornillot travels between these two worlds, a wryly funny and unsentimental narrator emerges. Whether meeting her father for the first time at age six and hoping she looks Cuban enough, imagining herself a girl-revolutionary leading protest marches, dreamily planning her father’s homecoming after his prison break, or writing to demand an end to his forty-four-day hunger strike after he’s recaptured, young Jeanine maintains a hopeful pragmatism that belies her age.

Eventually, a child’s mythology is replaced with an adult’s reality in a final reckoning with her father, remarkable for the unsparing honesty on both sides.
Bookmark and Share
“¬¨‚àûFinalemente! As incisive as she is lyrical, funny as she is profound, Cornillot dislodges the bolero-and-palm-tree nostalgia associated with Cuban-American identity, and asserts claim to a new and very real history.” —H. G. Carrillo, author of Loosing My Espanish

“Adds to the ever-growing jigsaw puzzle that is the Cuban-American experience . . . with verve and charm.” —Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love


Review: Booklist - September 28, 2009
“Cornillot uses her childhood experience to ground this exploration of a family split apart…readers will be intrigued as Cornillot swings between depth and frivolity, humor and pathos, and will wonder how any child could navigate such stormy waters.”
Review: Kirkus Reviews - August 1, 2009
“A charming, often sorrowful study of learning to let go of a myth and love a person.”

Family Sentence

ISBN: 978-080700038-0
Publication Date: 10/1/2009
Pages: 232
Size: x Inches (US)
Price:  $24.95
Format: Cloth
Availability: In stock.
Also Available In: