Carpentier, Alejo. Explosion in a Cathedral. University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
A swashbuckling tale set in the Caribbean at the time of the French Revolution, Explosion in a Cathedral focuses on Victor Hugues, a historical figure who led the naval assault to take back the island of Guadeloupe from the English at the beginning of the nineteenth century. In Carpentier’s telling, this piratical character walks into the lives of the wealthy orphans Esteban and Sofia and casts them abruptly into the midst of the immense changes sweeping the world outside their Havana mansion.
García, Cristina. Dreaming in Cuban. Ballantine Books, 1993.
Cristina García’s acclaimed book is the haunting, bittersweet story of a family experiencing a country’s revolution and the revelations that follow. The lives of Celia del Pino and her husband, daughters, and grandchildren mirror the magical realism of Cuba itself, a landscape of beauty and poverty, idealism and corruption.
Hijuelos, Oscar. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Farrar, Straus Giroux, 1989.
Born to Cuban immigrant parents, the late Oscar Hijuelos became the first Hispanic writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for his 1989 book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. The novel follows Cuban brothers who make their way to the United States in search of love and fame as mambo musicians. It touches on the Cuban immigrant experience – particularly the tumult that resulted from the rise of Fidel Castro in the late 1950s.
Ley, Rosanna. Last Dance in Havana. Quercus Publishing, 2016.
Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he's the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro's army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?
Yoss. A Planet for Rent. Restless Books, 2015.
In A Planet for Rent, Yoss critiques life under Castro in the ‘90s by drawing parallels with a possible Earth of the not-so-distant future. Wracked by economic and environmental problems, the desperate planet is rescued, for better or worse, by alien colonizers, who remake the planet as a tourist destination. Ruled over by a brutal interstellar bureaucracy, dispossessed humans seek better lives via the few routes available—working for the colonial police; eking out a living as black marketeers, drug dealers, or artists; prostituting themselves to exploitative extraterrestrial visitors—or they face the cold void of space in rickety illegal ships.
Palacio, Derek. The Mortifications. Tim Duggan Books, 2016.
In 1980, a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal Encarnación—father, husband, political insurgent—refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland. His wife Soledad takes young Isabel and Ulises hostage and flees with them to America, leaving behind Uxbal for the promise of a better life. But instead of settling with fellow Cuban immigrants in Miami’s familiar heat, Soledad pushes further north into the stark, wintry landscape of Hartford, Connecticut. There, in the long shadow of their estranged patriarch, now just a distant memory, the exiled mother and her children begin a process of growth and transformation.