Cecelia is “Grieving for Guava”

Cecelia Fernandez was working as a pharmaceutical rep when she took my class in the Graduate Writing Program at Florida International University. She was a single mother supporting a daughter (who was on the way to Princeton) and twin sons in high school. She wrote a story called “The Button Box, conjuring up a childhood memory of her last visit to her beloved Cuba before her family fled to the U.S. from the revolution they did not support. The story had power, evoked a lost time and the  love of  a lost homeland. Her story held the promise of a writing career – but such promises are seldom fulfilled.

Cecelia was committed. She left the pharmaceutical world and pieced together a teaching life, working as a part-time instructor at five different schools and colleges around the Miami area. And she kept writing. She wrote and published a memoir of her time growing up in Miami’s Cuban exile community, Leaving Little Havana, that won  First Place for Most Inspirational Book in The International Latino Book Awards. She kept writing. She wrote short stories, and compiled enough good ones to have a book of stories that has just been published.

When I go to Miami two or three times a year to visit my God Daughter, I always check in with Cecelia, to hear of her latest accomplishments, the trials and obstacles she overcomes. She told me she couldn’t think of a title for her collection of stories. I read with fascination this book that told of the Cuban exiles’ longing for their lost island, the sights and sounds and tastes of La Habana, that city that becomes more richly mythical as it recedes into memory. I realized that the spirit of her work could be evoked by the memory of a favorite Cuban food. I suggested she call her book Grieving for Guava. Cecelia liked it, and so did her publisher. Now it is out and available on Amazon.

Many people have Cecelia’s dream of becoming a writer; few reach the goal. All it takes is blood, sweat and tears. Red Smith, the legendary sports writer of the New York Times, was asked once if it was difficult to write a daily sports column. “No,” he said “All you have to do is sit down and open a vein.”

So it is with all good writing, so it is with creating a book. Cecelia has written a book of stories that dramatically tells of the love and the perils, the pathos and courage of those who have come to a new country to make a new life with a new language, new rules and customs, new obstacles and challenges.  This is real life drama, told with verve and spirit. This is what is called “a good read.”

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Who would Kurt Vonnegut vote for?

Kurt Vonnegut

“. . . I suggest you work for a socialist form of government. Free Enterprise is much too hard on the old and the sick and the shy and the poor and the stupid, and on people nobody likes.  They just can’t cut the mustard under Free Enterprise. They lack that certain something that Nelson Rockefeller, for instance, so abundantly has.”

“So let’s divide up the wealth more fairly than we have divided it up so far. Let’s make sure that everybody has enough to eat, and a decent place to live and medical help when he needs it. Let’s stop spending money on weapons which don’t work anyway, thank God, and spend money on each other. It isn’t moonbeams to talk of modest plenty for all. They have it in Sweden. We can have it here. . .”

Kurt Vonnegut, address to the graduating class of Bennington College, 1970
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Praise for “The Town of Whispering Dolls”

Susan Neville’s new book, The Town of Whispering Dolls is out now and is a wonderful read. I highly recommend it. It’s available now on Amazon and other book retailers.

The Town of the Whispering Dolls by Susan Neville

It’s also the winner of the Catherine Doctorow Prize for best book of Innovative Fiction of 2019.

“Neville’s inventive tales successfully tackle real issues”

Publishers Weekly

Neville “seduces a reader with language…The book is haunted and haunting, not only be a group of roaming dolls, but by the consequences of American empire.”

Kirkus Reviews
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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield