his own words...
is the first English word I ever learned. I read it on the calendar
thumbtacked to the wall of our apartment in the Bronx. Han-noo-a-ree,
I pronounced it. That was in the winter of 1957. My mother had
just divorced my father and moved us from Havana to New York City.
My father was busy trying to overthrow Batista and my mother thought
her prospects for raising a seven-year-old son looked much better
sewing sequins on evening gowns in the midtown garment district
than in a Cuban prison. Thanks, mamá. You made
the right call.
mastering that first English word, the power and joy of words
have become my life. I not only love words, I’ve made a
living from them. First, composing them into pages as a graphic
designer, and later arranging them into sentences as an advertising
writer. After twenty-four years of creating the fiction commonly
known as advertising, I decided to start telling my own stories.
Libre is my first novel. The idea came when the producer
I was working with on a public television film said, “You
should write a book about this.” The film was a comparative
study of the political and racial landscapes of the U.S. and Latin
America. Despite the project’s impressive collection of
international scholars, we were struggling to find funding. Inspired
by the producer’s idea, I began to write while waiting for
the foundations to respond. Soon, the characters came to life
and took the story far beyond the original scope of the film.
The longer the foundations took, the more I wrote. Several months later, I realized this work of fiction had expressed
the message of the film in a much more compelling way. While editing my manuscript, I realized my original story would work best as three separate stories. So the America Libre trilogy was born. (By the way, I’m
still waiting for the funding on the film.)
on my past, it’s not surprising I would write about a rebellion.
I saw one unfold firsthand between 1957 and 1961 in Cuba. Staying
with my father during summer breaks from U.S. schooling, I experienced
the life of an insurgent. My father and uncle ran contraband supplies
to Castro using a used tire business as a cover. Perhaps most
sobering was learning how fragile a government can be. Fulgencio
Batista fled the island in 1959. Overnight, the police and military
no longer had the might to maintain public order.
sudden rise to power transformed Cuba. During the anti-American
rallies Castro fomented, I heard my relatives shout hateful slogans
about people I knew and loved in Miami. Castro was preparing Cuba
for war and I saw how some leaders use hate, fear, and patriotism
for their own ends. As an eleven-year-old I received military
weapons training. That’s how desperate Castro’s war
to my mother, I managed to escape. She returned to Cuba and with her father's help arranged
a trip for us to visit relatives in Madrid. When our flight made
a stop in Bermuda, we got off the plane. Eventually, we were able
to return to the United States. We lost contact with
our Cuban relatives for the next 50 years. These experiences were the
wellspring for many of the characters and scenes of America
Libre, the first part of a trilogy.
House Divided, the second book in the Class H Trilogy, features the same characters and setting as America Libre and begins the day after its predecessor ends.
Pancho Land concludes the Class H Trilogy as the Suarez family saga reaches a third generation and the ethnic conflict brings the entire world to the brink of war. The Pancho Land Kindle edition released November 19, 2012 with other digital versions and a print edition to follow.
While developing the Class H Trilogy, I've also written another novel with a completely different flavor.
Skinny Years is the kind of story anyone well
past their teens can understand. It’s about that unforgettable
period when one changes from boy to man or girl to woman. Like
me, I’m sure you can remember with an uncanny clarity the
people, the places, the music, the laughter, the passion, and
the pain of those few years that today seem to take up the entire
first half of one’s life.
Skinny Years is loosely based on the story of a real-life
Cuban family from my childhood in Miami. Writing the story turned
into a small drama all its own. While searching the Internet for
names from my past, I reconnected with friends I had been out
of touch with for over thirty years. That alone made the book