Dirty Blonde and Half Cuban

( 9 )

Overview

One thinks of Cuba as the sexy, sultry, forbidden resort land of JFK and Marilyn, of mosquitoes and exotic fruits. This is one woman's story of the streets of Havana. It is a story told with such gritty realism and narrative aplomb that you think it's a memoir. In the end, it's one young author's fearless entry into the literature of fathers and daughters, identity and self-discovery, and the journey's in between.

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Dirty Blonde and Half Cuban

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Overview

One thinks of Cuba as the sexy, sultry, forbidden resort land of JFK and Marilyn, of mosquitoes and exotic fruits. This is one woman's story of the streets of Havana. It is a story told with such gritty realism and narrative aplomb that you think it's a memoir. In the end, it's one young author's fearless entry into the literature of fathers and daughters, identity and self-discovery, and the journey's in between.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In search of her Cuban roots in modern-day Havana, American Alysia Briggs reinvents herself in Wixon's frank, fearless novel, based on her Salon.com Havana Honey series. At 13, Alysia loses her mother to cancer and is then raised in privilege by her cold, WASPy diplomat father. But she later confirms that her birth father was native Cuban Jos Antonio. Determined to track him down, Alysia dashes off to Cuba, but when all her cash is stolen and her diplomat father turns his back on her, she is stranded. Wixon evokes the exigencies of Cuban life as she graphically details Alysia's entrance into the sex trade and transformation to a jinetera, or jockey, "a fitting metaphor for what many educated and beautiful Cuban women do after hours to feed their families as well as their dreams." Though Wixon renders Alysia's yearning for Jos Antonio and her attraction to Cuba palpable while vividly capturing Havana's rhythms and the power imbalance between struggling native women and North American sexual tourists, the narrator's acceptance of the call-girl lifestyle is rife with contradiction. Alysia presents the role as empowering and occasionally pleasurable at the same time she reveals it as a dangerous and last-ditch response to poverty. Wixon leaves the reader, like Alysia, bewitched by Havana's allure even as the heroine's immersion in jinterismo strains credibility. Agent, Stephanie Abou. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young American finds her missing father when she travels to Havana-and learns how to survive as a high-priced prostitute. Alysia Briggs is 13 when her dying mother tells her that her real father is Jose Antonio, and that some day she must find him in Cuba. Alysia, raised a diplomat's daughter and born in Havana, concludes that the handsome translator mentioned in her mother's journals is her biological father. Ten years later, she jeopardizes her career in the Foreign Service and, on a student visa, goes to Cuba, where in her first week the $25,000 she brought is stolen. Because of restrictions on her visa, she can neither work nor leave the island for a year. Destitute, she takes the advice of her new friend Camila and enters the life of the jinetera, whereupon begins the story's duality: on the one hand lies the pallid melodrama of finding the long-lost father; on the other, the revelatory portrait of contemporary Cuba's demimonde society. A jinetera, or jockey, lures wealthy tourists into "affairs," weeklong associations that provide gifts of jewelry or clothes and sometimes cash. Unlike the common prostitute paid by the hour or deed, the jinetera has long-term goals: monthly checks, return island visits, sometimes even marriage. Camila, a heart surgeon by day, has many "boyfriends"-a Syrian official, a Spanish oil magnate-and a house full of luxuries her paltry salary could never buy. Far from shameful, the pragmatic Cuban views the jinetera as clever and resourceful, and she is sometimes lucky enough to support her whole family. Alysia uses her new profession (which surprisingly causes little distress) to buy information about her father, but that plot line seems tacked on, anafterthought to the far more intriguing subject of contemporary Cuba, where the best educated are simultaneously among the poorest on earth. An uneven debut that might have been better as nonfiction: bogged down by a forced sentimentality, raised up by fine reportage. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781615588398
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/22/2006
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Wixon has lived in Europe and Latin America and traveled to more than forty countries. She currently makes her home in New York City. Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban is her first novel.

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First Chapter

Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban
A Novel

Chapter One

I felt his hand on my bare shoulder, and it was all over.

In the oppressive August afternoon, the heat from another's touch had the chilling effect of ice on a radiator. I'd been sitting alone, in a café in Havana near the former Hilton hotel -- the one ransacked by Communists and renamed Habana Libre.

Free Havana.

The stacks of papers on my table were askew, some stained by the café con leche I chain-drink to keep my spirits up. He came at me from behind. I looked up into a tanned face and silky blue eyes framed by deep lines. Late fifties, I guessed, and not unattractive. He asked to sit. I shrugged casually. He asked if I spoke English. I nodded. Then he asked for advice -- best bars, best beaches. My advice warranted a rum over ice, or so he measured, and he offered to buy me one.

I sighed. The papers were in a fantastic mess in front of me -- evidence of my bootless investigation -- and, today, had not been revealing the clues I'd hoped for. I piled them neatly. What the hell. A rum would be nice.

He smiles. I pretend, despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, that I'm a First World girl in a First World city, being offered a friendly drink by an attractive man. That at the end of this exchange, we will trade business cards and a flirtatious smile, and in a few days I'll find a message on my cell phone and, who knows, there might be dinner and maybe a movie or a stroll and, you know, a date.

But I am not in the United States, my home, and he assumes he's not sparring with an equal, a woman of his socioeconomic rank; give or take a few rungs in either direction.

He rolls an ice cube on his tongue, momentarily losing himself to the pleasure of coolness amid the humid soup that is summertime Havana. Another drink, then another. He talks only of himself in determined pontification, and asks no questions of me. It's how he signals he's expecting to pick up the tab. This one, and the next.

I ask where he's from. "America," he says with a mixture of pride and complicity, as do all Yankees who sneak into Cuba.

"It's norteamericano," I say, playfully scolding. "We Cubans are offended that you claim the entire continent for yourselves. "He's not listening. Greedily, he takes in the size of my chest, the green jade ofmy eyes, the curve of one thigh crossed over the other.

"So," he says, leaning across the table. "I'm on the eleventh floor of the Habana Libre." He looks at me expectantly, while holding the check in his hand. "What'll it be?"


I can't blame him necessarily for the blunder. The café's bathroom mirror is not kind in its judgment; cracked and faded, it reflects my freak-show appearance. These clothes, bought new in Washington, D.C., three months ago, are frayed from wear and harsh soap and sun. I carry my things in a plastic sack -- the Cuban girl's purse -- as my leather one had been stolen months before. My body, once a healthy size eight, has shrunk to a gaunt size four. Hipbones jut out for the first time in my life. I am easily bruised. A Cuban diet does these things.

I am an American, in the sense that my passport says so, in that my university degrees and professional stints and taxes paid cement my belonging to her.

But I am Cuban. My first breath was Havana air, and my father -- as I recently discovered -- circulates the blood of Cuba in his veins. I am a Cuban-American. Like marbles in a tub, I noisily roll the moniker around in my head: Cuban-American. The hyphen is the fulcrum, the teetertotter that swings up and down. Some days I'm more heavily Cuban. On others, I weigh in more American.

But today, this day, as the man's condom-covered cock slid between my thighs and his chest spread my breasts, as he heaved over me, pushing and pulling and pushing hard still, and as I ran my nails hard down his spine, a painful reaction to the pleasure I didn't expect to feel, as his face crinkled and he collapsed and rolled over and dressed and threw American scratch at my knees, and as I gathered the bills from the floor and tucked them into my bra -- isn't that what prostitutes do? -- and as I took the elevator eleven floors to the lobby and walked past the smirking guards, and as I passed through the doors into the cruel sun of the afternoon, I realized that the teeter-totter had landed with a thud.

At that moment, I was only Cuban.

Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban
A Novel
. Copyright © by Lisa Wixon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2006

    21st Century Cuba with an edge and comradery of survival!

    I really enjoyed this book! For some unexplained reason I have always had an interest in Cuba and will probably visit there within the next year. Through such books as CUBA by Stephen Coontz and SUSPICIAN OF RAGE by Barbara Parker, I have grasped a pretty good feel of life in 21st Century Cuba. DIRTY BLOND AND HALF CUBAN has given me an additional point of view. It has also opened my mind to be less judgmental of what one does to survive. Imagine an educated, trained female surgeon that saves lives every day, making only approximately $100 a month. To live, she has boyfriends that are foreign tourists and send her money and gifts year round. They appreciate her companionship, her wit, her intelligence, her looks and...yes, there is sex but is it prostitution as we know?? The author really shows insight and understanding of the wealthy, ego driven, successful man. The book's protagonist is US bred and educated and is searching for her father, without money, trapped in Cuba and befriended by the surgeon. She survives in ways she never imagined. However, it is a celebration of a society that is one big family, helping each other to survive, with a warm spirit and comradery. This book captured me and made me think, It was hard to put down and had a story that kept me involved. I highly recommend it and wonder what this author will come up with next!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2005

    Great!

    We saw this author speak at the Miami International Book fair. My husband and I bought the book. I read it in one day, and he is reading it now. We both are very impressed with the author's prose and the story line. We went to Cuba in 1999 and saw many of the men and women she writes about (the jinteras) with foreigners. The book paints a vivide picture of life in Cuba, and the writer is very graphic in her depiction of sex scenes. (Not recommended for young readers!). The book put us back in Cuba immediately and believe the author has a real talent for description and scene. Castro and the embargo together are the real reason this sad life is reality for these Cuban women. Despite this sobering reality, there are some very funny scenes. Highly recommended read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2005

    Not worth the read

    Now I was giving this book as an advanced copy some time last year and unless the entire book changed, I have no idea why it is getting great reviews. This women needs to just go back to writing school and take a quick latin american history class. The book is about a woman looking for her biological father all while she feels the need to whore herself through out cuba because according to her that is the only way to really make money in Cuba and to really feel like you are Cuban. THIS IS HER QUOTE. The rest of the book is about her tricks, her friends and her endless whinning. I am Cuban and I took this book as a huge insult. She also finds it necessary to not only have a spanish word in every other sentance but also she feels the need to translate it so the 'gringas' or 'latinoamericans' that do not understand spanish. This book will make Cuban women seem like slutty idiots. I am afraid that people will read this book and think that Cubans can not talk properly and would rather whore themselves rather than work. In my opinion this book is up there with the worst books that I have ever read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2005

    Dirty Blonde and Half Cuban

    This book is Memoirs of Geisha set in Cuba. Totally recommended. Great writing, characters you won't soon forget, and a fascinating look at modern day Cuba. A compelling, interesting, well written story. I can't wait for the movie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2005

    Dirty Blonde and Half Cuban

    I read an advanced author review of this book and I can't stop talking or thinking about this story. With this book you literally escape to Cuba. It's all about jineteras, who are the 'geishas' of Cuba. Wonderfully written and smart, it hooks you immediately. You will feel sorry for the Cubans and the main character but the book will also make you laugh. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2005

    Enjoyable first novel

    A highly recommended novel featuring a familiar theme - a privileged American daughter returning to the land of her birth to search for her biological father. An interesting twist which makes this novel worthwhile is the ideological road this Foreign service brat must navigate, the pragmatic jungle of the Cuban regime. The author spent time in Cuba researching the novel, and thus does an admirable job of capturing the challenges of Cuba's multi-faceted socio-economic, political and racial issues. With surprising and graphic detail, the author, in her first novel, chronicles how even female members of the educated class have chosen to be jineteras, Spanish for jockeys, but in Cuba has evolved to also mean prostitutes. A jinetera establishes long term relationship(s) with a foreign 'client(s)', using that foreign influence - the almighty American dollar - to help make ends meet in this Cuban prism. Through the main character's contacts with various elements of Cuban society, the reader gains insight, admittedly from a non traditional perspective, about everyday Cuban life, which over the years has been primarily passed on anecdotally from Cuban emigrants to their Cuban-American relatives. The book prompts the reader to ask him or herself the limits of their own efforts for love, survival and self fulfillment, a relevant question for anyone, especially as the author reminds readers of the Mariel Boatlift 25 years ago. I am an avid reader, an international traveler and a son of Cuban immigrants.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2005

    Definitely a Must Read!!!

    Absolutely the best book I've read in a long time. Lisa Wixon's poetry is more than lyrical, it's magical. It's like watching a movie in words. Every detail, so carefully depicted. This book will draw you in from the first pages and you won't be able to put it down until you're finished.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2005

    Fantastic voyage of individuation

    Wixon engages the reader right from the onset and never lets go. At times I felt I was in Cuba and longing for afternoon delight on the shores of Havana. Also read Images by J. Albert Rogue

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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