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by Gaby Triana

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All Isa wants is to be a regular American teenager, something her Cuban immigrant mother most definitely does not understand. After almost eighteen years of constant debate over everything from birthdays to boys, Isa has had enough. She's counting down the days until she leaves for college—and can get as far away from Miami (North Cuba) as possible. But the


All Isa wants is to be a regular American teenager, something her Cuban immigrant mother most definitely does not understand. After almost eighteen years of constant debate over everything from birthdays to boys, Isa has had enough. She's counting down the days until she leaves for college—and can get as far away from Miami (North Cuba) as possible. But the more Isa tries to detach herself from her roots, the more tangled she becomes. Will she ever find the normal American life she dreams of? Or is she destined to become a cubanita after all?

Editorial Reviews

To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2005: The major problem is announced with the first scene. Seventeen-year-old Isabel Diaz, born in America, is engaged in cultural warfare with her mother, a native-born Cuban. Isabel wants to be more American; her mother wants her to be more Cuban. Isabel, just graduated from high school, plans her escape to college in Minnesota. In the meantime, she breaks off her two-year-old relationship with a Cuban boyfriend to get "a fresh start." Just one more summer teaching kids at an Everglades day camp and she's off and won't look back. More problems arise when she meets another boy, an older boy, a dreamboat boy, a boy who wants all of her, but a boy who doesn't have her family values. Naturally, her mother doesn't approve, and her friends and family warn her that he's just using her. Just as naturally, Isabel refuses to listen until she makes a couple of startling (if predictable) discoveries. The tone of this novel is humorous even though the theme is serious and the plot somewhat tried and true. The setting evokes the tropical climate of Florida. Today's multicultural girls will find its theme relevant. Plus, it has the added bonus of featuring girl power as Isabel gets revenge on the one who did her wrong. KLIATT Codes: S--Recommended for senior high school students. 2005, HarperTrophy, 195p., $7.99.. Ages 15 to 18.
—Myrna Marler
Children's Literature
Isabel Diaz, the main character in this novel, has just graduated from high school and plans to attend college in the fall. Her college choice is far from her home in Florida, as she seeks to become independent from her Cuban persona and family. A summer job at a children's camp allows her to display her artistic skills and also fall in love with a fellow camp employee. There are many conversations in Spanish that the reader may not completely understand and there are sexual overtones that may not be suitable for the middle-school reader. Isabel makes many discoveries about family love, romantic love, cultural heritage, and life in general during the course of the story. Teen readers who like to consider how they would react in a similar situation will have lots to think about as they read this one. This is the second novel by the author. 2005, HarperCollins Publisher, Ages 15 up.
—Barbara Youngblood
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up-Isabel D'az is spending her summer between high school and college teaching art at a summer camp, avoiding her mother's pressure to embrace her Cuban roots, and flirting with an older man. Triana deftly weaves the Spanish language and the flavor of Miami's Cuban population into her fast-paced story. Although Isabel has moments of maturity well beyond her years, the tug of war between her mother's traditional ideas of how a young Cuban-American woman should behave and Isabel's struggle to become her own person will resonate with many teens, whatever their cultural background. Steamy scenes between Isabel and her sleazy love interest are well balanced between the gradual acceptance of her heritage and her evolving relationship with her mother. Isabel's story is an entertaining read that will be gobbled up by cubanitas and non-cubanitas alike.-Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Booklist (starred review)
“Hilarious. [This] will speak to teens everywhere.”
Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Worthwhile, engaging and highly entertaining no matter which flag you wave, Cubanita is the perfect summer book.”

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HarperCollins Publishers
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14 Years

Read an Excerpt


By Gaby Triana

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Gaby Triana
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060560223

Chapter one

She wants me to be her, but I'm not her. I'm not Miss Cubanita. I mean, I love my mom and everything, but I've never even been to Cuba, so how can she expect me to embrace it? This is my country, the U.S. 'tis of thee, with purple mountains and all that.

Okay, fine, so Miami is basically North Cuba, but still.

Guantanamera . . . guajira guantanamera . . . 1140 AM, WQBA. As if there weren't a thousand other radio stations she could have on.

"Mami, could you please listen to something else? They play that song, like, eighteen times a day." I can't concentrate on my teachers' handbook. I've read the same paragraph three times already.

"Ay, mi hijita, it's better than that stuff you listen to that goes taka-tun, taka-tun, taka-tun, and makes the car windows shake at every red light. Esa basura," she says, chopping up onions and peppers for the sofrito going into our dinner.

"Garbage? Mom, that's what people listen to now. Nobody listens to "Guantanamera." Only a cubanita like you, who's stuck in her own little world. Can't you try to act like the American citizen you are? I mean, it's embarrassing. You haven't been to Cuba in twenty-five years. What are you holding on for?"

Ten seconds of painful silence.

Then, "Si, ah-hah, Isabelita. You keeptelling yourself you're not Cuban, even though you are. La verdad que sometimes I wonder if they didn't switch you for another baby at the hospital. Que acomplejada tu eres."

She hacks the onions with a little more force, shaking her head, then starts talking to herself -- the all-time Cuban mother thing to do -- to make me feel guilty about not understanding her. "Ella quiere que yo deje de ser cubana, que deje de pensar en mi pais, en mis raices, en mi . . . "

I'm outta here. There's no way I can focus with her calling me acomplejada. I do not have a complex. Aren't seniors supposed to feel liberated after graduation? Then why am I so suffocated?

I leave the kitchen counter behind, her voice trailing offlike one of those slow trucks that announces shrimp for sale in our neighborhood when it disappears around the corner. Doesn't matter what she's saying anyway. It's probably "In Cuba, things were like this, in Cuba, things were like that, in Cuba, blah, blah, blah." Ay, all she ever talks about is Cuba!

In the hallway I pause to look at the oversized photo of me in my quinceanera dress. It was the tackiest ball gown you can possibly imagine: ruffles, bows, you name it. My mother insisted I have one of these galas for my fifteenth birthday, arguing tradition and culture keep families strong, but I never felt more alienated from her in my life. I would've rather waited and had a small party for my sixteenth, like half the girls I went to school with, but I caved in to her idea instead. It meant more to her anyway.

I remember shopping for THE dress. She wanted poofy; I wanted streamlined. She wanted the dorky studio portrait; I wanted the quick snapshot with the disposable camera. To make a long story short, here it is -- a poster of me in a bubble-sleeved dress, wearing a tiara, looking like a teenage bride. So much for trying to compromise with her. All this just for turning a year older. And to please Mami.

Always to please Mami.

Summer just started and already I can't wait to get out of here to begin my mother-free life at the University of Michigan in August. But until that happens, I'll be teaching art at Everglades National Park, same as last year. It has a summer camp -- Camp Anhinga, sort of an answer to those Camp Hiawathas up north, except the kids leave at 4:30 p.m. instead of sleep over. I love working there, probably because I've always dreamed of living somewhere other than Miami, somewhere with mountains and resorts.

I start tomorrow, and Mom is anything but thrilled. Surprise, surprise. If it weren't for my father, who's completely chill about everything, she'd never let me go. Are you kidding? Her ninita? Out there, with all those cocodrilos waiting for Isabel Diaz to fall in the canal so they can eat her for lunch? Thank God for Dad, that's all I can say. If it weren't for him, I'd never get to experience college away from home. I'd be stuck, taking classes locally, learning to cook and sew the holes in my brother's underwear on the side, cultivating my domestic skills as a backup career. Because that's what a good cubanita does, you know, thinks of nothing but home. Yeah. Okay.

Tap, tap.

Always, just as I'm getting ready for bed. "What?"

Tap, tap. My brother thrives on being annoying. You'd think he was younger than me, not twenty-one.

"What do you want, fool?" CK Eternity wafts in under the closed door. "It's unlocked," I say.

The door unlatches slowly, and there stands my brother, Mr. Calvin Klein poster boy, dressed to impress. He's wearing something he obviously just brought home, judging from his fashion show stance. Dark pants and a chocolate, long-sleeved, V-neck crew. Nice, if you live anywhere that actually experiences cool weather instead of eternal heat. He smiles devilishly and spins around. "Eh? Awesome, right? Am I ready to party or what?"

"Stefan, you look like a walking billboard. People don't really dress like that here, doofus -- "

"Listen to you," he interrupts. "People don't really dress like that. And how would you know? Oh, I forget, you go out so much, you're the Trend Tracker, the Clubhopper. For your info, people do dress like this. And even if they don't, I dress like this." He checks his watch.

"Okay, Enrique Iglesias, what I was going to say is that you're gonna get heatstroke the moment you step into any club. Remember, ninety degrees outside means, like, a hundred and ninety inside."


Excerpted from Cubanita by Gaby Triana Copyright © 2006 by Gaby Triana. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Gaby Triana is the author of three other novels, The Temptress Four, Cubanita, and Backstage Pass. She lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband and their four children.

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Cubanita 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a Cubanita from Miami away at college right now, I loved this book. Isabel was such a great character, and I enjoyed reading all about her family and friends. Gaby Triana did an amazing job on writing all about the heritage and quirks of Miami Cuban Americans. Isabel, as a first-generation American, faces what many other children of immigrants do, whether to embrace the heritage of the place of their birth, or the heritage from their history. If you peek through the book, do not be intimidated by the Spanglish you see, Gaby did a great job of translating in English every Spanglish or Spanish word said. I recommend this book, because any American, regardless of background can relate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a Cuban living in Miami, just like the girl in the novel. I must say everything that was mentioned about the cuban family, heritage, and what it's like to live in Miami couldn't be more true. Perfect for Cuban-Americans of all ages to read. If you want to get a glimpse of Latino culture this is the book for you! It will keep you laughing the whole time!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is outstanding. Ms. Triana is a genius. Her character of Isabel is a well developed and fun personality to follow. The inner thoughts and the reality of the situations Isa faces are easy to relate to and it is fun to see how she handles them. If you are looking for a great read, I highly recommend this book. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am Cuban myself so I could really relate to the book. I highly recommend it! When I got the book I couldn't put it down because it hooks you in so much that you can't wait another minute to find out what happens next! This book deserves 10 stars!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Cubanita the first day i got it i couldn't put it down. While i was reading the book i could picture everything. This book was so incredible i loved it and i can't wait for this author to write her next book. Im so anxious! This is definately a 5 star book to me. read it you'll enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book. Especially for those Cuban teenagers that always show there pride from where they are form. A book that will show your root,and to never be ashamed form your culture. I LOVE IT!!!