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Traveling Heavy

Traveling Heavy is a deeply moving, unconventional memoir by the master storyteller and cultural anthropologist Ruth Behar. Through evocative stories, she portrays her life as an immigrant child and later, as an adult woman who loves to travel but is terrified of boarding a plane. With an open heart, she writes about her Yiddish-Sephardic-Cuban-American family, as well as the strangers who show her kindness as she makes her way through the world. Compassionate, curious, and unafraid to reveal her failings, Behar embraces the unexpected insights and adventures of travel, whether those be learning that she longed to become a mother after being accused of giving the evil eye to a baby in rural Mexico, or going on a zany pilgrimage to the Behar World Summit in the Spanish town of Bejar. Behar calls herself an anthropologist who specializes in homesickness. Repeatedly returning to her homeland of Cuba, unwilling to utter her last goodbye, she is obsessed by the question of why we leave home to find home. For those of us who travel heavy with our own baggage, Behar is an indispensable guide, full of grace and hope, in the perpetual search for connection that defines our humanity.
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Table of Contents

Part One: Family The Key to the House Learning English with Shotaro El Beso A Shepardi Air The Book The Day I Cried at Starbucks on Lincoln Road A Tango for Gabriel A Degree in Hard Work La Silla Part Two: The Kindness of Strangers From Those Who Don't Forget You A Gift from the Women of Mexquitic The First World Summit of Behars Unexpected Happiness in Poland Part Three: Cuban Goodbyes The Freedom to Travel Anywhere in the World Cristy Always Prays for My Safe Return An Old Little Girl Acknowledgments


About the Author

Ruth Behar was born in Havana, Cuba. She and her family moved to New York City when she was five. In the years since, she has become an internationally acclaimed writer and the Victor Haim Perera Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. She is the author of many books, including An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba; The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart; and Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza's Story, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. In addition to her work as an anthropologist, Behar is a poet, a fiction writer, and a documentary filmmaker. She wrote, directed, and produced Adio Kerida (Goodbye Dear Love), a film that has been shown at film festivals around the world. Behar has been honored with many prizes, including a MacArthur "Genius" Award.


"A heartfelt witness to the changing political and emotional landscape of the Cuban-American experience." - Kirkus Reviews "All those intrigued by their ancestral story will be moved by the personal quest and also by how - with the help of computers as well as the kindness of strangers - the lost can find their way home." - Hazel Rochman, Booklist "'Travelers are those who go elsewhere because they want to ... Immigrants are those who go elsewhere because they have to.' Ruth Behar's own story is one of being both the reluctant immigrant and the enthusiastic traveler, and finally, perhaps to appease both legacies, 'an anthropologist who specializes in homesickness.' Behar admits Spanish is her mother tongue, and yet she is a master craftsperson in her father tongue, English. As always, her exquisite stories leave me astonished, amused, exhilarated, illuminated, and forever transformed." - Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street "Traveling Heavy speaks to issues - the impact of religion on social identity, the cultural and linguistic discomforts of immigration, the social tensions found in multicultural and multigenerational families, the texture of relations between parents and children - that define our humanity. What's more, Ruth Behar skillfully weaves these complex issues into a gripping story of personal challenge and growth. Her artful memoir is filled with grace." - Paul Stoller, author of The Power of the Between: An Anthropological Odyssey "Ruth Behar graces us with her provocative and enchanting memoir of travel and self discovery: as a mother, as a writer, as an anthropologist, and as a child of exile and homecomings. Traveling Heavy is a memoir of wonder from one of the leading Latina artists of the U.S.A." - Marjorie Agosin, author of At the Threshold of Memory: New & Selected Poems "Ruth Behar takes us deep into geographies she has charted, transcending anthropological reportage and finding the poetry that is there not only in the places she has mapped but also in history. She has written an observant and surprisingly compassionate book, full of warmth. I enjoyed reading every page; it is full of wisdom and devastating sincerity." - Nilo Cruz, author of Anna in the Tropics, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama

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