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REVIEW AND Q&A: HABANERA by Teresa Dovalpage

Se fue para no volver,
Se fue sin decirme adios.
Muy lejos de mi se fue
Matando mi ensueno de amor.

We are building tomorrow’s society
With today’s sweat, a notebook and a gun.

If I move forward, follow me,
If I stop, push me.
If I back off, kill me.

"The system is crap, and Castro is still a bearded cabron. What I like is the smells, the people, The Cubanness.”

Teresa Dovalpage has written an emotional, fast-paced and entertaining novel.

Reminiscent of WHEN I WAS PUERTO RICAN and HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENT, Ms. Dovalpage’s HABANERA also chronicles the life of a young Latina, but this one lives in Habana, Cuba. Longina’s story is at times funny and sad, carefree and heart breaking.   It is a must read for every Latina library.

Below is a short summary of HABANERA and below that is a Q&A with the author.  Do let us know if you've read the book and/or what other books you've read in the same format.   Thanks --mcf

A Portrait of a Cuban Family
by Teresa Dovalpage

SUMMARY:   Longina is raised in post revolutionary Cuba. At first there is a “red curtain of wealth” on the island – lots of sturdy Russian tourists, lots of foreign merchandise, but the curtain doesn’t last long and certainly not for the general masses. Soon there are rationings and blackouts. Longina’s world becomes one of extremes, where revolutionary hymns are taught in school, but university girls quit to become “escorts” for rich tourists; where there are no worries about “Big Brother” since most neighbors are “comecandelas” –zealot revolutionaries–who spy and turn you in for free; where El Comandante and God become one; where pigs and Christmas trees are black market items, but Vietnamese sandals are readily available; where people are ostracized and imprisoned for daring to dream of moving to La Yuma (the U.S.); where 90 miles is worth dying for.


Q: Is LA HABANERA autobiographical? What was your experience growing up in Cuba?
      A: Yes, it is very much autobiographical. It started as a memoir but at a given point, I discovered that I had strayed way too much away from the truth…. My mother, in particular, was indignant at my suggestion that she had cheated on my father and called me mentirosa and cochina, so I turned it into a novel to keep peace in the family. Growing up in Cuba was sometimes a surrealistic experience and I tried to reflect that in the book. Pigs and Christmas trees were black market items, there were dollar-only zones in Havana and many people had exaggerated and inflated notions about life in La Yuma [the US].

Q: What do you think of La Yuma?
      A: I like it a lot, chica! But the truth is that Taos, where I live now, feels more like a Latino environment than San Diego or even Albuquerque. I can speak Spanish (New Mexican Spanish is slightly different from Castilian but it is español nevertheless), I eat Hispanic food (I am a big fan of chile relleno) and listen to New Mexican music. So it doesn’t feel like La Yuma that I imagined in Cuba… it is more a Yuma Latina, if you will.

Q: What is your favorite memory of Cuba?
     A: Sitting in the living room of my friend Mercedes Soca, who founded the first Quaker Group in Havana, and visualizing myself doing astral travel—I never succeeded, though. Going to the Coppelia, the biggest ice cream parlor in Havana and eating a big chocolate Sunday with syrup and bizcochos.

Q: Who are your favorite Latino authors?
     A: Lorraine López, who was a finalist for the 2010 PEN Faulkner Award; Teresa Bevin, who has just published the novel PAPAYA SUITE; Cristina Garcia and Oscar Hijuelos.

Q: What is next for you?
      A: I am currently working with Patricia Padilla, a Taos-based eighth-generation curandera, on a book about Curanderismo. Its title is 101 QUESTIONS TO A CURANDERA and it will be published in English and in Spanish.

To learn more about Teresa Dovalpage visit her at the following sites:

This book was provided by the author.  The review was courtesy of The Latina Book Club.---mcf


Chiquis Barrón said…
Enjoyed "Habanera" tremendously! ¡Muchas felicidades, Té!
Thelma T. Reyna said…
Teresa is a highly talented author! I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone. I'm glad to hear that Teresa has a new book in the pipeline about curanderas, since the topic of folk healing is very interesting to me as I reflect on my childhood growing up in a small dusty town. Much success to Teresa and to you, Maria! Keep the good reviews and interviews coming!