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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 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 Béjar. 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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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 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 Béjar. 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.

30 review for Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in between Journeys

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kee

    Behar wrote an amazing novel that manages to capture your interest in regards her life and experiences. I found the Jewish history and experiences of the jews worldwide incredibly interesting, as it somewhat resonated with my own family history and made me wonder about my own family's experiences and journeys. An enjoyable read that i suprisingly really liked, as i don't usually read or enjoy memoirs or biographical books. There were parts that I loved, and others that i skimmed, however the majo Behar wrote an amazing novel that manages to capture your interest in regards her life and experiences. I found the Jewish history and experiences of the jews worldwide incredibly interesting, as it somewhat resonated with my own family history and made me wonder about my own family's experiences and journeys. An enjoyable read that i suprisingly really liked, as i don't usually read or enjoy memoirs or biographical books. There were parts that I loved, and others that i skimmed, however the majority of the book, especially the first 3/4 were really interesting and intriguing. I found the end a bit less intriguing, but i'm not too sure why...

  2. 4 out of 5

    TAMMY CUEVAS

    Ruth Behar came to the United States with her Sephardic Jewish family when she was five years old from Cuba. Although she grew to adulthood here in the States, the pull of her Cuban homeland has never left her. In her memoir, she tells of her many travels back to the island in search of her heritage. Her story, told in the first-person, is viewed in a series of flashbacks in a non-linear narrative. This works well and does not prove to be confusing to the reader. Her memories of her grandparents Ruth Behar came to the United States with her Sephardic Jewish family when she was five years old from Cuba. Although she grew to adulthood here in the States, the pull of her Cuban homeland has never left her. In her memoir, she tells of her many travels back to the island in search of her heritage. Her story, told in the first-person, is viewed in a series of flashbacks in a non-linear narrative. This works well and does not prove to be confusing to the reader. Her memories of her grandparents are especially moving, while her travels in Mexico contain amusing moments. Poignant memoir of an immigrant and her family. 5 stars Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    L.M. Quinn

    When I was at UCLA during the first wave of Cuban immigrants to the US, I recall my Cuban student colleagues' stories of love and hopelessness at having to leave their beloved Cuba. I've always wanted to visit Cuba and see what they saw their. Ruth Bejar's story has made that wish even stronger. Her Cuban-jewish roots tug at the heart as she tells her story of her journeys to and from Cuba, journeys she refuses to end, the ties are too strong. When I was at UCLA during the first wave of Cuban immigrants to the US, I recall my Cuban student colleagues' stories of love and hopelessness at having to leave their beloved Cuba. I've always wanted to visit Cuba and see what they saw their. Ruth Bejar's story has made that wish even stronger. Her Cuban-jewish roots tug at the heart as she tells her story of her journeys to and from Cuba, journeys she refuses to end, the ties are too strong.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Duffy

    A highly personal story.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Harri

    This was another first reads book that I received a few years ago that I never managed to read, because life gets on top of you. I moved to university, I got ill, and my to read list got bigger and bigger. Anyway, this month I finally read it, and I really, really wish I had read this sooner. I am someone who has grown up in the country I was born in. In the city I was born in. As a child I moved house once. My new house was walking distance from my old house. Even as an adult, when I moved to un This was another first reads book that I received a few years ago that I never managed to read, because life gets on top of you. I moved to university, I got ill, and my to read list got bigger and bigger. Anyway, this month I finally read it, and I really, really wish I had read this sooner. I am someone who has grown up in the country I was born in. In the city I was born in. As a child I moved house once. My new house was walking distance from my old house. Even as an adult, when I moved to university I only moved one country over (England to Wales). I've travelled a little, but only for holidays. The longest I spent in a different country was two weeks. I love travelling, but I love coming home most of all. I love my routines and my food and my bed and my own things. Reading about Ruth Behar's experiences with immigration and travel felt like looking through a window into another person's world. The feelings the book evoked, and the curiosity I felt about other people's lives, made reading the book a very emotional experience. I couldn't begin to imagine what it feels like to be taken from your home at such a young age, or what if feels like to belong to so many places and yet not completely belong to any of them. But thanks to this book, I felt like I'd been given a chance to begin to imagine that, to begin to understand that. I felt like this book was written in a very honest way. There are some memoirs that I really don't like, because the writer seems flawless, which can't possibly be the case. Ruth Behar has written a very real, very human account, and I liked that. Perhaps being an anthropologist helps in that area, I don't know. I found myself interested in every charcacter in this book. All of the stories that Behar told alongside her own felt very real. This review was very rambly, I'm sorry. I'm usually a bit more connected with my writing, but I'm exhausted at the moment. I didn't want to leave this book without my review any longer, however, because I really think that everyone should read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura Boudreau

    Very enjoyable book; provides a perspective into lives of others around the world

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    The book is a memoir of the author who has a surprisingly complicated ancestry and family history. Her forebears are both Ashkenazy and Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Spain, who fled Europe just before WWII to settle in Cuba, only to flee from there to Florida with the onset of Castro's communist take-over. It was a fascinating glimpse into lives spread over time and geography that one doesn't often, if ever, imagine. At the same time, upon reading this often lyrical prose about ordinary family The book is a memoir of the author who has a surprisingly complicated ancestry and family history. Her forebears are both Ashkenazy and Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Spain, who fled Europe just before WWII to settle in Cuba, only to flee from there to Florida with the onset of Castro's communist take-over. It was a fascinating glimpse into lives spread over time and geography that one doesn't often, if ever, imagine. At the same time, upon reading this often lyrical prose about ordinary family and family disagreements, I realized that family stories like Behar's are probably far more ubiquitous than I could have guessed. There were just a few places where the story lagged, bogged down I think, as the author was similarly stuck at the time her then-young son was hurt while playing soccer and she took up learning the Tango to get unstuck and help him move on with his life. A multi-layered, warm and very human, delightful read. Some books just help you feel better about being human, and this is one of them. I was given this book at no cost, so that I could offer an unbiased review of the work, and this is it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Ghodsee

    I keep a stack of books on my desk, a “to read” pile that taunts me all semester while I am teaching. I can never find the time to sit down with a book that is not directly related to one of my classes or my current research projects. Ruth Behar’s Traveling Heavy was somewhere in the middle of the pile, but since I will soon be moving to Germany for the year, I was inspired to read a book written by another itinerant academic. This memoir absolutely enthralled me; I read it cover to cover withou I keep a stack of books on my desk, a “to read” pile that taunts me all semester while I am teaching. I can never find the time to sit down with a book that is not directly related to one of my classes or my current research projects. Ruth Behar’s Traveling Heavy was somewhere in the middle of the pile, but since I will soon be moving to Germany for the year, I was inspired to read a book written by another itinerant academic. This memoir absolutely enthralled me; I read it cover to cover without stopping. The essays are written in gorgeous prose, and Behar’s narrative voice is both introspective and informative without ever being pedantic. What fascinated me the most about this book was the author’s relentless search for belonging. As a Jewish Cuban, Behar meditates on the nature of diaspora and the importance of telling stories about who we are and where we come from. “Once a story has been told,” Behar writes, “it can never be lost.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    I found this book fascinating. As an anthropology major in undergrad, I had the experience to read numerous ethnologies and learn about the methodologies used by cultural anthropologists. This book, in some places, read like a novel. Her voice was candid and you could feel the love she developed for the three countries she traveled extensively to and for the people she met. It was intriguing to read how her diverse cultural background has shaped her experience with the concept of "home." I reali I found this book fascinating. As an anthropology major in undergrad, I had the experience to read numerous ethnologies and learn about the methodologies used by cultural anthropologists. This book, in some places, read like a novel. Her voice was candid and you could feel the love she developed for the three countries she traveled extensively to and for the people she met. It was intriguing to read how her diverse cultural background has shaped her experience with the concept of "home." I realized I take my cultural identify for granted and learned that maybe my own sense of identity is more diverse than I imagine.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Duke Press

    “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 “A moving story of finding oneself through a lifetime of travel, this will be a terrific addition to memoir and Judaica collections.”--Olga Wise, Library Jour “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 “A moving story of finding oneself through a lifetime of travel, this will be a terrific addition to memoir and Judaica collections.”--Olga Wise, Library Journal

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Clearly, an exceptional writer. Opened my heart and mind towards what the immigrant experience is like. My mother immigrated from Scotland to the U.S. in the late 1940's after WWII. When I became old enough to have any understanding, I am awed at the courage it takes to leave behind everything and everyone you love to look for something different, maybe better. For Behar, she left Cuba as a small child with her closest loved ones. But, as she so beautifully articulates, Cuba never left her. An inte Clearly, an exceptional writer. Opened my heart and mind towards what the immigrant experience is like. My mother immigrated from Scotland to the U.S. in the late 1940's after WWII. When I became old enough to have any understanding, I am awed at the courage it takes to leave behind everything and everyone you love to look for something different, maybe better. For Behar, she left Cuba as a small child with her closest loved ones. But, as she so beautifully articulates, Cuba never left her. An interestingly done memoir.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Merrily

    Ruth Behar is a fascinating anthropologist, winner of a MacArthur "genius" award, and a Cuban-American Jew. This latest installment of memoir is well written, interesting, but a bit repetitious. The chapters read as independent essays, which makes good bedside reading material -- a chapter a night before I go to bed. It makes me want to track down her other books, especially" An Island Called Home." Ruth Behar is a fascinating anthropologist, winner of a MacArthur "genius" award, and a Cuban-American Jew. This latest installment of memoir is well written, interesting, but a bit repetitious. The chapters read as independent essays, which makes good bedside reading material -- a chapter a night before I go to bed. It makes me want to track down her other books, especially" An Island Called Home."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann Pearlman

    I was swept away by the stories of Behar's life as she formed homes throughout her travels and shared with us poignant and vivid images of the people she met and the lessons learned. Cuba, Miami, Israel, Spain, Mexico, the Jewish Diaspora are all part of her experiences that add to the wondrous heaviness of her luggage. Traveling Heavy presents an immigrant/refuge story mad timely right now. I was swept away by the stories of Behar's life as she formed homes throughout her travels and shared with us poignant and vivid images of the people she met and the lessons learned. Cuba, Miami, Israel, Spain, Mexico, the Jewish Diaspora are all part of her experiences that add to the wondrous heaviness of her luggage. Traveling Heavy presents an immigrant/refuge story mad timely right now.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Beautiful essays --- Behar is a lovely hostess in these stories about her family, friends, career as a young anthropologist and more! This book is challenging, funny, kind.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Janice

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Andersen-Andrade

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Mara

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adriana Barcia-cantelmo

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paula Nogueira

  20. 4 out of 5

    Yemile

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  23. 4 out of 5

    Werner

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela

  25. 4 out of 5

    Salomé Navarro

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jesse A Green

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Valentine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tara Lumpkin

  29. 5 out of 5

    georgia roth

  30. 5 out of 5

    David Dayton

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