Thursday, February 15, 2018

Next Year in Havanna - Spotlight

About Next Year in Havana:
In 1958, nineteen-year-old Elisa is the daughter of a sugar baron and member of Cuba’s high society where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest—until she finds herself involved in a clandestine affair with an impassioned revolutionary that changes the course of her life. 
More than fifty years later, her granddaughter, Marisol, returns to the country to fulfill Elisa’s last wish to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. Once in Havana, Marisol soon follows in her grandmother’s footsteps when she finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own.

Click HERE to read Chapter 1

Chanel Speaks:

In 1967, my grandparents and father left Cuba after Fidel Castro’s revolution and sought refuge in the United States. They arrived in Florida with the hope that exile would be temporary. Fifty years later, my family has built a life here, thrived in the country that welcomed them. But despite the intervening years, the subtle shifts in policy, and Castro’s death, my family has been unable to return to Cuba. My grandmother died dreaming of her homeland, and her ashes sit in an urn, waiting for us to take her back to the country she loved so faithfully.

When my family left Cuba, they were unable to take valuables with them, were forced to leave behind mementos, wedding rings, family photos, pieces of our family history. In an attempt to preserve their legacy, they hid those items in the walls of their home and buried them in their backyard for when they could return to the island. At the time, exile seemed temporary and the hope that drove their actions gripped me as a writer. I was left with the question: 

If you were forced to leave your home, and you had a box in which to place your most prized possessions, what would you choose to save for the day you would return?

Growing up, Cuba was part of my daily life—the stories my family told, the language we spoke, the music we listened to, the food we ate, the hope that one day we would return instilled in me from an early age. These stories, this version of Cuba given to me by my family, nurtured in exile, became the foundation for Next Year in Havana, the novel inspired by the idea of a hidden box and the secrets it protected for decades.

Next Year in Havana alternates between the modern day story of a Cuban-American woman honoring her grandmother’s last request to scatter her ashes in the country from which she was exiled and her grandmother’s experience in 1958, living in a country on the cusp of revolution. As these women face heartbreaking choices amid a tumultuous political climate, the novel explores the universal themes of family, love, and patriotism. This book contains a piece of my family’s history. Thanks for letting me share it with all of you.