Friday, February 27, 2009

Achy Obejas, Renaissance Woman, Cuban Style

My Note:

Poet. Novelist. Translator. Teacher. Journalist. Achy Obejas is a bright light in our literary firmament, nationally and internationally. On a personal note, many years ago, she and I read with such glowing stars as Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, Norma Alarcon, at a long-defunct women's bookstore, Jane Addams on Michigan Avenue, here in Chicago. Her work exudes a keen sense of humor, of irony, of compassion and is laced with the infinite small moments that make her poetry and her novels sing with the breath of real life.


Achy Obejas was born in 1956 in Havana, Cuba, a city that she left six years later when she came to the United States with her parents after the Cuban revolution. She grew up in Michigan City, Indiana, and moved to Chicago in 1979. At the age of thirty-nine, Obejas returned to the island of her birth "for a brief visit and was seduced by a million things". The Cuba of her imagination and experience recur throughout her writings.

An accomplished journalist, Obejas worked briefly for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1980-81 and then for the Chicago Reader. She has also written for The Windy City Times, The Advocate, High Performance, and The Village Voice. Her coverage of the Chicago mayoral elections earned her the 1998 Peter Lisagor Award for political reporting. She currently is a cultural writer for the Chicago Tribune, where she has worked since 1991.

Obejas' poetry has appeared in a number of journals, including Conditions, Revista Chicano-Rique, and The Beloit Poetry Journal. In 1986, she received an NEA fellowship in poetry. Her short stories have also been widely published in journals and anthologies. Her novels include We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This? (1994) and Memory Mambo (1996), both published by Cleis Press. Memory Mambo won a Lambda Award, and her third novel, Days of Awe (2001), also won the 2002 Lambda Award for Lesbian Fiction.

Although she has lived in the Midwestern United States since she was six, Obejas has always identified with Cuba. She says in an interview:

I was born in Havana and that single event pretty much defined the rest of my life. In the U.S., I'm Cuban, Cuban-American, Latina by virtue of being Cuban, a Cuban journalist, a Cuban writer, somebody's Cuban lover, a Cuban dyke, a Cuban girl on a bus, a Cuban exploring Sephardic roots, always and endlessly Cuba. I'm more Cuban here than I am in Cuba, by sheer contrast and repetition.

As an activist and writer, Obejas continues to explore her Cuban identity and experience, earning her an important place in the literature of the United States.

(Courtesy of Voices From the Gaps)



RUINS a novel of Cuba by Achy Obejas
$15.95, 300 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-933354-69-9
Publication date: March 2009, A Trade Paperback Original, Fiction
A selection of Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers program

*Scroll down for 2009 author events

A true believer is faced with a choice between love for his family and the Cuban Revolution.

"Daring, tough, and deeply compassionate, Achy Obejas's Ruins is a breathtaker. Obejas writes like an angel, which is to say: gloriously . . . one of Cuba’s most important writers.”
--Junot Díaz, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

"In the Havana of Ruins, scarcity can only be fought with ingenuity, and the characters work very hard at the exquisite art of getting by. The plot rests on the schemes of its weary, obsessive, dreamy hero--a character so brilliantly drawn that he can’t be dismissed or forgotten. A tender and wildly accurate portrait, in a gem of a novel."
--Joan Silber, author of The Size of the World

USNAVY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A TRUE BELIEVER. When the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959, he was just a young man and eagerly signed on for all of its promises. But as the years have passed, the sacrifices have outweighed the glories and he’s become increasingly isolated in his revolutionary zeal. His friends openly mock him, his wife dreams of owning a car totally outside their reach, and his beloved fourteen-year-old daughter haunts the coast of Havana, staring north.

IN THE SUMMER OF 1994, a few years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government allows Cubans to leave at will and on whatever will float. More than 100,000 flee--including Usnavy’s best friend. Things seem to brighten when he stumbles across what may or may not be a priceless Tiffany lamp that reveals a lost family secret and fuels his long repressed feelings . . . But now Usnavy is faced with a choice between love for his family and the Revolution that has shaped his entire life.

ACHY OBEJAS is the author of various books, including the award-winning novel Days of Awe. She is the editor of Akashic’s critically acclaimed crime-fiction anthology Havana Noir, and the translator (into Spanish) for Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Currently, she is the Sor Juana Writer in Residence at DePaul University in Chicago. She was born in Havana and continues to spend extended time there.

Praise for HAVANA NOIR edited by Achy Obejas:

"[A] remarkable collection . . . Throughout these 18 stories, current and former residents of Havana deliver gritty tales of depravation, depravity, heroic perseverance, revolution and longing in a city mythical and widely misunderstood."
--Publishers Weekly


--Sat., February 21, 2pm--EVANSVILLE, IN--Barnes & Noble, 624 S. Green River Rd.

--Tues., February 24, 8pm--MIAMI BEACH, FL--Books & Books, 933 Lincoln Rd.

--Sat., February 28, 3pm--MISHAWAKA, IN--Barnes & Noble, 4601 Grape Rd.
*Cosponsored by the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame

--Thurs., March 5, 7:30pm--CHICAGO, IL--Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark
*Book release event

--Sat., March 7, 3pm--LAFAYETTE, IN--Barnes & Noble, 2323 Sagamore Parkway S.

--Mon., March 9, 7pm--MADISON, WI--Barnes & Noble West, 7433 Mineral Point Rd.

--Tues., March 10, 7pm--IOWA CITY, IA--Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St.

--Wed., March 18, 7pm--ST. LOUIS, MO--Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Ave.

--Thurs., March 19, 7pm--CINCINNATI, OH--Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2692 Madison Rd.

--Fri., March 20, 7pm--ASHEVILLE, NC--Malaprop's, 55 Haywood St.

--Sat., March 21, 3pm--DURHAM, NC--Barnes & Noble, 5400 New Hope Commons

--Sun., March 22, 6:30-8pm--WASHINGTON, DC--Busboys and Poets at 5th & K, 1025 5th St. NW
*With Achy Obejas (RUINS) and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Mon., March 23, 6:30-8pm--BALTIMORE, MD--Enoch Pratt Free Library (Central Branch, Poe Room), 400 Cathedral St.
*With Achy Obejas (RUINS) and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Tues., March 24, 7pm--NEW YORK, NY--Bluestockings, 172 Allen St.
*With Achy Obejas (RUINS) and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Wed., March 25, 7:30pm--NEW YORK, NY--92nd St. Y, 1395 Lexington Ave.
*With Achy Obejas (RUINS) and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Thurs., March 26, 8pm--METUCHEN, NJ--Raconteur Books, 431 Main St.
*With Achy Obejas (RUINS) and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Fri., March 27, 7:30pm--PROVIDENCE, RI--Ada Books, 717 Westminster St.
*With Achy Obejas (RUINS) and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Tues., May 5, 7:30pm--PORTLAND, OR--Powell's, 1005 W. Burnside
*Akashic All-Stars event with Achy Obejas (RUINS), Maggie Estep (ALICE FANTASTIC), and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Thurs., May 7, 7pm--SAN FRANCISCO, CA--City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave.
*Akashic All-Stars event with Achy Obejas (RUINS), Maggie Estep (ALICE FANTASTIC), and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Fri., May 8, 7pm--LOS ANGELES, CA--Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd.
*Akashic All-Stars event with Achy Obejas (RUINS), Maggie Estep (ALICE FANTASTIC), and Robert Arellano (HAVANA LUNAR)

--Sat., May 9, 7:30pm--SAN FRANCISCO, CA--Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St.
*Part of the "Writers with Drink" reading series

Contact: Johanna Ingalls/Akashic Books
232 Third St., Suite B404
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Tel: 718-643-9193/Fax: 718-643-9195

Lisa Alvarado

No comments: