Cuban-American literary and cultural resources: a selective bibliography

Reference Reviews

ISSN: 0950-4125

Article publication date: 15 February 2011



Carlito, D. (2011), "Cuban-American literary and cultural resources: a selective bibliography", Reference Reviews, Vol. 25 No. 2.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Cuban-American literary and cultural resources: a selective bibliography

Article Type: Cuban-American literary and cultural resources: a selective bibliography From: Reference Reviews, Volume 25, Issue 2

Minority literary criticism exists in abundance, and it is increasingly broken down with more specificity rather than categorized by the general, larger ethnic group. Latino/a or Hispanic literature is further divided into Chicano, Nuyorican, and, as will be discussed in this article, Cuban-American. As is stated in the introduction to Cuban-American Fiction in English: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources:

At one time, Cuban-American literature seemed largely about Castro and Cuba, but now it encompasses all genres and themes ranging widely in subject matter and featuring protagonists from various cultural backgrounds … The literature has a notably ethnic voice, although that voice does not always mourn for the Cuba of yesteryear or desire to return to Cuba (Carlito, 2005).

Significant Cuban immigration to the USA started in the late 1800s when cigar makers set up operations in Key West and Ybor City (a section of Tampa). Mass migrations occurred after Fidel Castro assumed leadership on January 1, 1959. Since that time, other significant waves of immigration have occurred, such as the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980 and the continuous traffic of those who leave on rafts, often termed Balseros. Cuban Americans can be of the first, 1.5, or second generations. As described by Gustavo Pérez Firmat, first generation Cuban Americans were born in Cuba and came to the USA as adults. Members of the 1.5 generation were born in Cuba, but came to the USA when they were young, and second generation Cuban Americans were born in the USA. In the sources discussed in this article, all three generations are represented.

Whether examining the exile experience through nonfiction or fiction, the Cuban-American exile experience is unique. Nevertheless, like other ethnic literatures, as Cuban-American exile writers are becoming acculturated to the USA, the literature becomes more of a minority literature and less about the exile experience.

Cuban-American Fiction in English: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources (Carlito, 2005) addressed primary works by Cuban-American authors who write principally in English, and the criticism of these works. This article is intended as an update to the original bibliography, and thus is made up primarily of new and updated sources, while also briefly covering some essential sources that appeared in the original work.

The Cuban-American exile experience

Cuban Americans, especially those of the older generation, frequently see themselves as exiles rather than immigrants. Because immigration began en masse in 1959, most of the literature on the exile experience concentrates on the years after Castro seized power. The sources below describe the Cuban exile experience in the USA. There are also numerous memoirs that feature personal narratives of life in Cuba and being Cuban American.

Bardach, A.L. (2002), Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana, Random House, New York, NY

This book outlines the political and social history of the relationship between Miami and Cuba since 1959. Bardach constructs her narrative around the 1999-2000 Elián González media frenzy in both the USA and Cuba. She shows how González was used by both sides as a prop and puppet, analyzing exile politics and pointing out the dogmatic similarities between Cuba and Cuban-American Miami.

Boswell, T.D. and Curtis, J.R. (1984), The Cuban American Experience: Culture, Images, and Perspectives, Rowman and Allanheld, New York, NY

The Cuban American Experience discusses all aspects of Cuban-American culture. Boswell and Curtis argue that a truly distinctive genre of Cuban-American literature has not yet evolved, and they outline a history of early creative Cuban-American literature.

Garcia, M.C. (1997), Havana USA: Cuban Exiles and Cuban Americans in South Florida, 1959-1994, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA

Havana USA provides a history of Cuban immigration to the USA since 1959 and the Cubans’ influence on South Florida. The second half of book asks cultural identity questions such as: What does it mean to assimilate into American society? Can one maintain one’s national identity and yet be a full participant in American society? and What does it mean to be an American?

Herrera, A.O. (Ed.) (2001), Remembering Cuba: Legacy of a Diaspora, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX

This work contains over 100 experiences of the Cuban Diaspora and the Cuban exile experience through narratives, interviews, creative writing, letters, journals, recipes, photographs, and paintings.

Herrera, A.O. (Ed.) (2007), Cuba: Idea of a Nation Displaced, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY

Cuba: Idea of a Nation Displaced includes essays, testimonials, literary works, and interviews dealing with the idea of Cuba as a place. The introduction acknowledges that Cuba is not one culture, but “a hybrid, transnational integration and fusion of widely diverse cultural roots and influences” (four). The book also discusses Cuban exiles to other countries: Spain, France, and Venezuela; and minorities within Cuba such as Jewish Cubans (called Jewbans) and Cuban Chinese.

Oliver, E. (1999), “Cuban immigration and the Cuban-American experience: a selective annotated bibliography”, Reference Services Review, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 179-207

This article is an annotated bibliography of 44 books and articles dealing with Cuban-American immigration, exile, and literature. The introduction provides a backdrop of Cuban history in the USA. The bibliography also includes Internet sites for sources on business, culture, media, and US-Cuba policy.

Pérez Firmat, G. (1994), Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX

Life on the Hyphen is a major work on Cuban-American popular culture. It contains six chapters, with the first three concentrating on pre-Castro figures of popular culture and the remaining chapters on post-revolution figures. Pérez Firmat defines the 1.5 generation, and describes the three stages of immigrants adapting to a homeland: substitution, destitution, and institution.

Cuban-American literature

While there is not a great deal of research on Cuban-American literature, the body of work is growing. Divided into articles and books, listed below are some of the primary works of Cuban-American literary (particularly fiction) criticism.

Alvarez Borland, I. (1998), Cuban American Literature of Exile: from Person to Persona, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

Cuban-American Literature of Exile: From Person to Persona was the first book-length work to concentrate primarily on Cuban-American literature. Alvarez Borland discusses the older generation who writes primarily in Spanish and the younger generation who writes in English. She argues that Cuban-American literary expression is firmly grounded in the experience of exile.

Araújo, N. (2000), “I came all the way from Cuba so I could speak like this? Cuban and Cubanamerican literatures in the US”, in Ashok, B. and Murray, P. (Eds), Comparing Postcolonial Literatures: Dislocations, St Martin’s Press, New York, NY, pp. 93-103

For Araújo, Cuban-American literature is characterized by language conflict and identity issues caused by the incorporation of Cubans into the larger Anglo culture. Araújo argues that a language difference exists between the first generation of Cuban-American writers and the younger writers, with the first authors writing solely in Spanish, the literature moving to a mixture of Spanish and English, and the younger authors writing solely in English.

Bertot, L.D. (1995), The Literary Imagination of the Mariel Generation, Endowment for Cuban American Studies of the Cuban American National Foundation, Miami, FL

This is the only book-length work to examine the Mariel generation of writers. Bertot argues that these writers most often comment on present-day Cuba, and frequently they describe a Cuban society in chaos, on the verge of falling apart because it has failed at socialism.

Binder, W. (1993), “American dreams and Cuban nightmares, or: does Cuba exist? Some remarks on Cuban American literature”, in Voix et Langages aux Etats-Unis: Actes du Colloque des 26, 27 et 28 Mars 1993, Publications de l’Université de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, pp. 223-58

Binder begins with an introduction to Cuban emigration after January 8, 1959, and the early Cuban literature published in the USA, beginning with Cuban newspapers in 1820 and ending with José Martí in 1880. Binder organizes his discussion of the texts according to genre, theme, and chronology. To Binder, Cuban-American literature moves from one of protest and revenge to that of nostalgia, myth, and idealization.

Burunat, S. (1990), “A comparative study of contemporary Cuban American and Cuban literature”, International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Vol. 84, pp. 101-23

Burunat and her researchers examined 217 short stories and 982 poems by Cuban Americans and 72 short stories and 217 poems by Cubans written before 1982. They then conducted a content analysis and linguistic analysis of these works. They found a correlation in the use of English in the Cuban-American authors’ works and the years of residence in the USA and the age group.

Carlito, M.D. (2005), Cuban-American Fiction in English: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD

Cuban-American Fiction in English is the first bibliography of Cuban-American literature written in English. Carlito includes listings and annotations of all primary and secondary works of Cuban-American fiction written in English by first and second generation Cuban Americans. The introduction provides a history of Cuban-American immigration, relations, and literary traditions.

Cortina, R.J. (1993), “Cuban literature in the United States: 1824-1959”, in Gutiérrez, R. & Padilla, G. (Eds) Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage, Arte Público Press, Houston, TX, pp. 69-88

Cortina’s essay gives an overview of literature published prior to 1959. His main purpose in the article is to organize the following literary material according to these (eight generational) periods, not to impose any external demands on the texts (p. 70). He states that there is no difference between Cuban literature and Cuban exile literature as long as the author is recognized as being a national writer in Cuba.

Figueredo, D.H. (1997), “Ser Cubano: to be Cuban: the evolution of Cuban-American literature”, Multicultural Review, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 18-28

Figueredo presents a political history of Cuban-American literature. He divides the literary periods into 1959-1970, the 1970s to the 1980s, the Mariel generation of writers, and modern Cuban-American literature. According to Figueredo, Cuban-American literature frequently focuses on issues relating to Cuban identity influenced by the Cuban Revolution and exile.

García, M.C. (2004), “Cuban American prose 1975-2000”, in Valdés, M.J. and Kadir, D. (Eds), Literary Cultures of Latin America: A Comparative History, Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, pp. 464-9

García examines Cuban-American prose beginning with 1975. She believes that “Cuban Exile and Cuban American novels and short stories serve as historical documents. Using Cuba, the revolution, and migration to the USA as backdrop for their fictional plots, these authors challenge our interpretations of history. At the same time, they give us insight into the psychological world of exile and biculturalism” (p. 464).

Herrera, A.O. (2007), “‘Inheriting exile’: Cuban-American writers in the Diaspora”, in Sandín, L.D. and Perez, R. (Eds), Contemporary US Latino/a Literary Criticism, Palgrave, New York, NY, pp. 183-205

Herrera provides a framework for looking at Cuban-American literature. She also discusses the “problems” with Cuban-American literature, such as how it is viewed in the larger canon of other Hispanic literatures and how some critics do not see Cuban-American literature as a Hispanic literature.

Montes, R.M. (2006), Generational Traumas in Contemporary Cuban-American Literature: Making Places/Haciendo Lugares, Edwin Mellen, Lewiston, NY

Montes challenges the critics who primarily view Cuban-American literature as a means of preserving an idyllic view of Cuba. He is interested in how the second generation is reacting to biculturalism and how they express a sense of place in their literature. He emphasizes that there is no one perception and memory of Cuba.

Rivero, E.S. (1990), “(Re)writing sugarcane memories: Cuban Americans and literature,” Americas Review, Vol. 18 No.3-4, pp. 164-82

“(Re)writing sugarcane memories” was one of the first articles to come out about Cuban American literature. According to Rivero, writing sugarcane memories refers to recreating the mother country through motifs in nostalgic writing, while (re)writing refers to juggling both the Cuban and American worlds. Rivero states that recent works of Cuban-American fiction contradict the belief that Cuban Americans have not assimilated linguistically or culturally and are always looking back.

Cuban-American author biographies

In addition to the secondary works above, there are also composite biographies of Cuban-American authors available.

Maratos, D.C. & Hill, M.D. (1986), Escritores de la Diáspora Cubana: Manual Biobibliográfica/Cuban Exile Writers: A Bio-bibliographic Handbook, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, NJ

This book contains short biographies of Cuban exile writers and was written to document as thoroughly as possible the literary/intellectual production of the Cuban Diaspora from 1959 to the present. Cuban Exile Writers contains a complete bibliography for each author with all known editions and translations of some works.

West-Durán, A. (2004), Latino and Latina Writers, Vol. 2, Scribner’s & Sons, New York, NY

Volume 2 contains Cuban-American writers and includes the writers Margarita Engle, Roberto G. Fernández, Cristina García, Eliana Rivero, Oscar Hijuelos, Elías Miguel Muñoz, Achy Obejas, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Isabel Alvarez Borland, Dolores Prida, and Virgil Suárez.

Delores CarlitoMervyn H. Sterne Library, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA


Carlito, M.D. (2005), Cuban-American Fiction in English: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD

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