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Is there something healing about this process?


In Miami that wound is constantly open, and so I don’t think of it as healing as much as a coming to terms with. I think through writing the book I did come to terms with my own exile, and I accepted that I am a Miamian, a world traveler, a citizen of the world. I had to go through the journey of all that writing and go into all those places that are painful to me and my characters. In a way you can call that healing, but our story is never-ending. We are still separated. I have family in Cuba I haven’t seen since I was ten, and I just turned 50. The problem is this is a 50-year dictatorship that continues to exist, and there are times when you become full of hope. Which is, by the way, why I wanted to write about 1989. I wanted to write about when the Berlin Wall fell and there was sense of hope that Cuba was also going to become a democratic nation. I was also involved in the coverage of those events, and to me they are just extraordinary.


As you’ve read your work throughout the country, has there been a difference in how various generations respond to it?


The younger readers all say, “This explains my parents’ generation to me,” that they can see their mother and grandmother in it. I’ve received some really touching e-mails from young people who wanted to see themselves and their culture reflected in the book. Marisol is 45 when the novel begins, and you don’t find many characters in [today’s] literature that are that old. I wrote about this character because I wanted to deal with that stretch of history from 1959 to 2005.


Being bilingual, did you ever consider translating the novel from English to Spanish yourself?


I considered it for about 15 minutes. I thought, “Well, I know both languages, so I can just do the Spanish myself.” When I started, however, I wanted to rewrite the whole book and I couldn’t remain faithful to my own work. In Spanish, I think in a different way. Spanish is the language of my soul, and English is the language in which I communicate; it’s my practical language and the language I work at. The spirit that guides me is Spanish, but the actual technique is English. It’s a very interesting relationship that I just discovered. For example, I like to write poetry in Spanish and prose in English. With the Spanish edition, this book now has a whole other life. Now is when Cubans are really reading my book; the English version was read by Cuban Americans.


Now that it’s been translated, is there anyone in your family who couldn’t read it before but can read it now?


Oh, yes. I was so scared because I knew my most severe critic had not read the book in English, and that is my mother. I thought, “When she reads all that stuff about my grandmother, she’s going to kill me.” I didn’t even want to tell her that the book was coming out in Spanish. I waited until I absolutely had to and decided I’d go ahead and face the firing squad. But much to my surprise and absolute joy, she called me one Saturday and said she’d made my favorite dish and I had to [come over and] eat it right then and there. When I arrived, she said she had stayed up until 2 a.m., read my entire novel, and couldn’t put it down. And I said, “Here comes the stomachache.” But instead, she said, “Wow, ¡qué novela! ¡Está picante!” Her only objection was to a bad word on page 23, and she quickly blamed the translator. So I got away with it. She’s very frail and sick, but she called up her beautician and asked her to come over because she had to get ready for her daughter’s book launch. She was the belle of the ball.


What are you working on now?


My next book is a children’s book about a ten-year-old girl whose family sets out to sea in a raft in 1994, and it’s based on a true story that I covered in Guantanamo. It’s titled Flight Under the Stars

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