Are you one of the millions of US citizens duped into believing that all Cubans in Cuba are either mindless automatons producing state-controlled pablum, or dissidents clamoring to get out of a living hell?
If so, don’t blame yourself. We’ve been fed this line since 1959. Even the New York Times, whose mind-blowing series on Cuba has prompted renewed interest in our much-maligned neighbor implies that only new voices are revolutionary in the true sense of the word ( 12/23/14 Op Ed piece “Cuba’s Promising New Online Voices,” ).
Well let me tell you, contrary to popular thought Cubans on the island have been putting their real thoughts and feelings out there for quite a while now–and having them published there in Cuba.
Let me suggest to you, for example: Nancy Alonso’s Closed for Repairs [Cerrado por reparación, 2002, in English Curbstone 2007] and Disconnect/Desencuentro [Spanish 2008, bilingual edition Cubanabooks 2012] in which she chronicles the trials of the Special Period, and same-sex love respectively.
Also of note is the strident and proud poetry from Georgina Herrera, publishing since 1962–you can get your hands on Always Rebellious/Cimarroneando [Cubanabooks 2014] where she shares her feminist and Afro-Cuban perspective.
She’s the protegé of well-known Nancy Morejón, already internationally recognized as a brilliant activist and writer, whose most recent book Homing Instincts/Querencias opens up new doors into her psyche.
An intellectual avalanche in the works, Mirta Yáñez’s The Bleeding Wound/Sangra por la herida [2010, bilingual edition Cubanabooks 2014] gives us a novelized account of the decade after the revolution as compared to modern-day Cuba. As an aside, this novel won not only the Critics’ Prize in Cuba, but also the Literature Prize from the Academia de la Lengua.
Do you like light-hearted but somewhat disturbing ghost stories? Try María Elena Llana’s An Address in Havana/Domicilio habanero. Want to hear about the nitty gritty, the violence and horror that women can experience, or even propagate? Then I would point you to the darkly compelling Ophelias/Ofelias by Aida Bahr. More in the mood for satire and sly poking fun at social and cultural mores? The Mirta Yáñez’s stories in Havana Is a Really Big City will suit.
Or perhaps you want to try our first Cuban author from off the island (living in Miami), the prominent scholar Uva de Aragón, whose novel The Memory of Silence/Memoria del silencio lays out both sides of the exile/island dichotomy, and in the end proves that family ties can win out over politics.
If you already were on the bandwagon, then just take this as a new reading list to add to the great stuff you had. If, on the other hand, you have been a doubter–take the plunge to educate yourself, then tell me what you believe.
Check out the small literary press—Cubanabooks—a nonprofit and volunteer-run operation, Cubanabooks is committed to providing education about and access to first-class literature by Cuban women. We publish BILINGUAL editions so you can savor the Spanish and enjoy the best English translations available, by professionals such as Dick Cluster, Anne Fountain, Pamela Carmell, Barbara Riess, Jeffrey C. Barnett, and more.