Sunday, March 04, 2012

Tales out of Cuba


Begin with Sara Cooper, Professor of Spanish and Multicultural and Gender Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Pathway Coordinator, at Chico State University. In her travels to Cuba over the last ten years she became convinced that women writers there ought to have a voice in the larger literary world. In May 2010 she established Cubanabooks (, a non-profit small press dedicated to translating the work of contemporary Cuban women writers.

Now, Cubanabooks is celebrating the publication of a new bilingual collection of short stories, this time by Nancy Alonso. "Disconnect/Desencuentro" ($15.95 in paperback with a Kindle edition planned) is translated by Argentina-born Anne Fountain, Professor of Spanish at San Jose State University.

A book release party will be held from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. Thursday, March 15 at Chico State University's Cross-Cultural Leadership Center. Free and open to the public, the reception will feature a visit by the translator, perhaps a taped reading by Alonso herself, and Cuban snacks.

The twelve stories in "Disconnect," as a note about the author says, run "the whole gamut of human relations including lesbian love, unconventional mother and son ties, chance encounters, interwoven destinies and even a dreamed death. Characteristic of Alonso's fiction is her creation of everyday scenes and dialogues that are universally understood yet deeply rooted in Cuban reality."

In "Anniversary," a group of former students from Havana's College Preparatory Institute, now living in Florida, put together a twenty-fifth reunion. There are smug self congratulations all around and they decide to contact another former student living in Cuba. "Although they might be separated by the longest ninety miles geographically speaking, they were also the shortest ninety miles." But it turns out the friend had organized a parallel reunion--and held it on the grounds of the Institute itself.

The final story gives the book its title. An older male professor writes a letter to one of his students, Leonardo, admitting that "I had fallen in love with you, a student who was twenty-five years younger than me, and I was incapable of confessing it to Pablo," his partner. "In order to lie to others--and I needed to do a lot of that--no method has proved more efficient than that of deceiving ourselves." Alonso is a chronicler of self-deception.

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