In this blog, I will be publishing memoir, short stories, personal essays and poetry. I will be discussing writing, literature, culture and the creative life.
I will begin with sections from a book-length memoir, but occasionally digress to other forms of writing to give you a sensation of reading several works at once. Many readers, including myself, often stack a handful of books on their night tables to savor as the mood unfolds.
The memoir, LEAVING LITTLE HAVANA, has been my major creative undertaking. For ten years, I have imagined and reimagined the narratives of my life and finally glued together all the flying — and jagged — pieces of a particular time and place.
While the book tells my story, it brings to light the plight of thousands of people like me: the children of the first Cuban exiles who abandoned their homes almost immediately after La Revolucion in 1959.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
It is the story of a girl uprooted from her comfortable middle-class home in La Habana by parents desperately fleeing for their lives in Fidel’s communist Cuba. Haunted by memories of loss of home and family and fighting to overcome cultural and language barriers, she rebels against her immigrant parents and descends into drugs and sexual profligacy while she searches for love and attention. She deals with the pain of a philandering father, who eventually abandons the family, and a mentally ill mother, who weeps for a lost life back in Cuba and hears voices outside her window.
The teenaged girl must fend for herself and struggles to survive in a low-income Little Havana neighborhood. She talks her way out of a
shop-lifting charge, plans her own quince mini-extravaganza, and sidesteps a high school ruling that bars her from graduation.
Only when her fellow students from Miami High School go on to prestigious universities like Radcliff and Harvard does she pull herself back together. She begins taking journalism classes and lands a spot on the community college newspaper as a reporter. She applies to half a dozen universities and gets accepted to all. She chooses the one farthest from home, marries her boyfriend and sets out — husband in tow — on a quest to construct a future as a writer.
In the same way that DON’T LET’S GO TO THE DOGS TONIGHT by Alexandra Fuller and ‘TIS by Frank McCourt examine life in a foreign country, my memoir takes a look at how immigrant children either survive or self-destruct in a new land they must eventually make theirs. While many memoirs by Cuban-Americans, such as SPARED ANGOLA by Virgil Suarez and WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA by Carlos Eire, revolve around childhood scenes in Cuba and explore the experiences of a boy, my book is the first to focus on the journey of a Cuban girl struggling to learn the value of her own inner strength as she clears a path to her dream.
The immigrant experience leaves a permanent imprint on all children who start life anew in the United States.
I look forward to reading your aesthetic and intellectual responses to my work.
Leaving Little Havana by Cecilia M. Fernandez is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.