The North American Review’s Winter 2017 issue includes a story of mine, and the artwork they’ve attached to the story is not only really cool, but truly captures the atmosphere of the piece!
Really excited to be part of this panel at this year’s AWP Conference in Washington D.C.:
Beyond Diversity: How to Run the Truly Inclusive Creative Writing Workshop Day: Friday, 2/10/2017 Time: 04:30:PM– 05:45:PM Room: Capital & Congress, Marriott Marquis, Meeting Level Four
Fidel Castro was a dictator. He got rid of the opposition, sometimes by murdering them; he imprisoned and tortured artists, political activists, gays, journalists; he persecuted and often forced into exile anyone who spoke against or criticized his regime; he kept his nation in poverty while proudly declaring how strong and free our system in Cuba was; he sold universal healthcare (people went blind in Cuba because of a lack of Vitamin A) and free education (communist indoctrination included) to the globe while providing some of lowest salaries in the world to Cuban workers (with market prices comparable to the U.S.), indirectly taxing them ridiculous rates; he refused to hold open democratic elections and did not allow for freedom of the press. He was, in short, an asshole of the highest order, and his death comes many years too late.
Sadly, this won’t bring immediate change to Cuba, though plenty of Miami Cubans will loudly celebrate it (and understandably so). What I have a hard time wrapping my head around is that so many of the people celebrating Castro’s death today actually voted for Trump (hence my very complicated relationship with Miami). Personally, I’m glad that those who suffered directly because of Castro have this moment of catharsis, if one can call it that. But looking ahead, I choose to do so with nuance, and as always, listening to the Cubans inside the island, most of whom I’m sure are also content today but unable to openly celebrate it, and aware that Fidel’s brother is the one in charge, and that asshole was still alive the last time I checked.
First, I’m happy to share the news that I’m GrubStreet‘s new Head of Faculty and Curriculum. I’ve been teaching fiction writing at this wonderful center for over a year, during which I’ve also participated in many of their events, led free workshops, and presented at their excellent conference, The Muse & the Marketplace. I’m very excited to be a part of the staff and help GrubStreet continue their exceptional work serving our diverse community of writers in Boston and beyond!
One of the amazing initiatives at GrubStreet is the Writers of Color Group. I attended my first meeting a little while back, and wrote a blog post sharing my experiences and explaining why it’s such an important project. This meeting focused on the topic of cultural appropriation, sparked in part by Lionel Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival.
In May of this year, Alina (my wife) and I made a 10-day trip to Cuba. It was the first time back for me after 18 years, and 12 for her. We stayed at the house where I grew up (we actually slept in what used to be my parents’ bedroom). As someone who writes about Cuba, this journey back was more than a personal reconnection with my native home, members of my family, and childhood friends. It was an opportunity to see, in real life, places that I remembered or had imagined while writing about them in my stories and novel.
Here are a few photos (from the hundreds!) we took while there.
El Capitolio and old cars: what most tourists get to see.
Cops harassing local vendors: what tourists don’t always see.
Teatro Mella: the setting for the opening of my novel.
Coppelia ice cream parlor: another setting in my novel.
View of El Vedado, el Malecon, and the U.S. embassy.
My best friend from my childhood took Alina and me on a ride around Havana in his Russian Jupiter motorcycle with sidecar. One of the coolest experiences we had.
Bumped into Ky-Mani Marley (one of Bob Marley’s sons) at a bar in Old Havana. We spoke briefly about our mutual love for the island and its people.
How so many people live just blocks away from the tourist areas.
Side street in Centro Habana, as viewed from El Paseo del Prado.
The sad state of the block where I grew up.
The Cuban countryside.
Havana’s budding restaurant industry (tostones rellenos and enchilado de cangrejo).
Remnants of the Soviet era. My dad used to drive one of these, assigned by his job, when I was growing up.
Alina and I on the famous steps at the University of Havana.
Having a complimentary drink at the restaurant where Obama ate during his visit.
The latest issue of The Florida Review is out, and it contains the title story of my collection, “A Kind of Solitude.” It is a story about an old Cuban peasant with a troubled past who finds himself trying to decide whether to confess to an accidental crime he has committed, or bury the evidence for good.
This story got me into Boston University’s MFA program and in many ways changed my life.
I’m really happy to have had my poetry chapbook published by Backbone and to see it mentioned–its cover shown–in this feature. Crystal is doing great work by providing a platform to publish poetry by a diverse range of authors, particularly poets of color.
As she states, “It’s important to note when I say poets of color this includes poets of all diverse backgrounds: Asian, Latino, Native American and so on. Our niche is cultural writing, not just poetry, by African American writers. We need more venues and spaces focusing on diversity.”
Eson Kim did an amazing job putting together this podcast discussing the creative writing workshop. Highly recommended for anyone who has taken or is planning to take a creative writing class.