May 17, 2016

"We Carry Our Homes with Us: A Cuban American Memoir" by Marisella Veiga

On December 30, 1960, Marisella Veiga with her mother and two brothers boarded a plane from Havana to Miami. Her father fled a few months later, joining his family with a total of fourteen U.S. cents in his pocket and an understanding that he would never see his homeland again. Seeking a less competitive job market and thanks largely to the sponsorship of a host family in St. Paul, the Veigas resettled in Minnesota, miles away from the Caribbean subtropics, where the climate was similar to home, Spanish was spoken, and thousands of exiles arrived each month.

Veiga’s stories are rich with detail and character as she describes her integration into a northern midwestern landscape she grew to love, from adapting to the cold—learning to ice-skate before learning to speak English—to her obsession with Davy Jones. Yet, the weight of her biculturalism—being of two worlds but an outsider to both—has been central to her quest for identity: “Sometimes, I dream that if I can get in touch with the essence of that monolingual child with one set of customs, I would be satisfied. I would be complete, whole.” In this honest memoir, readers will find a resonant story of an exile’s journey, one that ultimately embraces those two worlds: a life of conflict and limbo but also one of richness and understanding.

Advance Praise:

“Marisella Veiga’s touching memoir delicately plumbs the dislocation, both physical and existential, that framed the journey of so many Cubans who were forced to flee their tropical island. Her family depended on grit and courage to survive, and later thrive, in their adopted Minnesota, even if that meant stifling all their yearning for and fading memories of Cuba. Looking back, Veiga courageously gives voice to how her life was shaken by this rupture from her homeland until, as she writes, she learned to carry her home with her.”
~ Lizette Alvarez, Pulitzer and Polk award-winning New York Times national correspondent

“Marisella Veiga has created a memorable and timely account of her family’s flight from Cuba, her childhood years in Minnesota, and the reverberating effects of life in exile, all the while revealing how people and families hold themselves together and help each other along.”

 ~ Nick Healy, author of It Takes You Over

About the Author:

Marisella Veiga is a writer, poet, journalist, and adjunct instructor at Flagler College. Born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in St. Paul and Miami, she lives and writes in St. Augustine, Florida.

Published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press
Available April 15, 2016
$16.95 paper, 192 pages, 10 B&W Photos, 5.5 x 8.5 inches, ISBN: 9781681340067
$9.99 e-book, ISBN: 9781681340074

May 13, 2016

Fathers in Education @ Madie Ives Elementary

Yesterday, I had a wonderful day with the children at Madie Ives Community Elementary School. I and a group of fathers were invited to be a part of Fathers in Education Day in which fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and male role models and mentors are invited to come in to local schools to read, tell stories, share a hobby, talk about their job and other activities.

Before I read from Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories, I talked about the origins of Anancy stories, bullying, and what the students should do if they ever became the victim of a bully. For homework, they signed a pledge.

I want to thank Ms. Brinson, the principal of Madie Ives Community Elementary School; Ms. Fernandez, the counselor, and, of course, Mrs. Ferro-Philp and her students for inviting me to be  a part of such an uplifting day.