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Poet, novelist, critic, and extraordinary writer of short fiction, MirtaYañez also has worked extensively compiling anthologies of contemporary Cuban women writers. Her narrative stands out by virtue of a complex yet unmistakable Cuban flavor and a characteristic preoccupation with the social, political, and economic particularities of the island and how these affect los cubanos. Catherine Davies has called Yañez one of the "most outstanding short story writers" among Cuban women. This groundbreaking collection ...
Poet, novelist, critic, and extraordinary writer of short fiction, MirtaYañez also has worked extensively compiling anthologies of contemporary Cuban women writers. Her narrative stands out by virtue of a complex yet unmistakable Cuban flavor and a characteristic preoccupation with the social, political, and economic particularities of the island and how these affect los cubanos. Catherine Davies has called Yañez one of the "most outstanding short story writers" among Cuban women. This groundbreaking collection of her work, most of which is available for the first time in English translation, includes La habana es una ciudad bien grande in its entirety as well as selected stories from Todos los negros tomamos café, El diablo son las cosas, Narraciones desordenadas e incompletas and Falsos documentos.
In a manner of speaking Yañez's earliest works reflect an ethic and aesthetic prevalent in Cuba the first decades after the Revolution. Still enamoured of her island, albeit cognizant of its difficulties, Yañez swears she will die there. Like Edmundo Desnoes and others, she defends certain social and economic principles that underlie Cuban culture and politics, simultaneously suggesting that Cuba has been slower to respond to the human need for intense personal and individual creative development. Predictably, this has never stopped her. Catherine Davies comments that "Yañez's stories confirm and reinforce dominant systems of thought [...], but at the same time a distinctly feminist agenda can be discerned" (A Place 149). Indeed, a feminist perspective is present throughout her work, but in the best sense of the word: Yañez brings a critical and analytical gaze to rest on the culture and society that surrounds her. Her fictional world is complex, her characters are in conflict with themselves and the human condition. However much an ideology or code of ethics might inform her work, Yañez has always --subtly, yet insistently-- questioned and undercut the myth that any official discourse is infallible. Themes of class, race, gender, and sexuality are artfully interwoven in humorous and poignant narratives that make the reader pause to rethink her/his views or assumptions about Cuba and about life.
What will become clear as the reader makes her/his way through this collection of short stories is that Yañez has always had her own way of thinking, of perceiving and depicting the world around her, a sensibility that has not always made life easy for her. Nevertheless, Yañez denies that her work is really daring. "Daring is only when you are afraid. I'm not afraid--I have nothing to lose. I don't have an official position. . . . What are they going to do, not publish me? They're not going to stop publishing me. And they're not going to lynch me from the nearest tree" (Cooper). A true daughter of the Revolution, Mirta Yáñez’s voice continues to ring out against a static acceptance, and for change. Important to note is that her stories most definitely do not attempt to undermine the validity of the Cuban political system, but do include a heightened sense of irony and criticism of the parts of the system that don't work. Similarly, she does not employ a strident feminism or activist stance in any way--her individual perceptions supercede any ideology or imposed critical framework. As such, her voice is not that of a disenfranchised minority struggling to figure out who she is or to fit into a society that keeps her on the periphery. One does not sense in her narrative a battle cry or an appeal for pity. On the contrary, Mirta Yañez's voice is that of a powerful, opinionated, educated, Cuban woman, comfortable and sure in her gender, sexuality, and national identity. Her stories reflect the absence of limitations that only such an internal certainty can confer. Wherever her tales may be situated, whatever gender their protagonists may have, they speak to universal issues as well as the reality of the Cuban woman. Her different way of thinking has allowed her to sculpt a personal and political sensibility that narrates the humorous, the tragic, and the inspirational of her own experience without restricting herself to the autobiographic.
Posted May 20, 2013
Have you ever had that feeling that you’ve been somewhere, when actually, you never have? Mirta Yanez's "Havana is a really Big City" makes you feel as though you’ve been to Cuba… even if you’ve only wished it to be true. It is an impressive collection of short stories featuring Cuba and the everyday lives of its people. “Havana is a really Big City” is a very enjoyable read. It is interesting how the title says that Havana is a big city but in her stories, Yanez portrays Cuba as a familiar place, the well-known small town feel. Each story introduces us to a character, ranging from children to adults to a dog, who tells us a personal account of the highs and lows of life. Each story is so different, covering a variety of themes such as sadness for lost loved ones, unhappiness with life, coming of age, and love. These stories are original and down to earth, and the emotions that flow from character to character and story to story are completely relatable. Yanez weaves so much emotion into such few words. She writes as though she's a good friend just telling you stories. This book will keep you entertained and I definitely recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 18, 2013
Havana is a really big city
If you think you have read good short stories think again, when you read Havana is a really Big City you will fall in love with Mirta Yanez writing. I had already read a short story by Mirta called Todos los negros tomamos café and I loved her writing. When I knew I had to read this book I knew from the get go that I was going to love this book. It’s just one of those books that you start to read and you just can’t stop. One of the stories that caught my attention was FOR MEN ONLY an outstanding short story that show a situations that humans have to go through sometimes in life. For example in this story mister Morris was bullied for being homosexual at work someone kept writing mister Morris maricon on the bathroom doors to make fun of him. This short story represents the unbillable behavior that people are faced with at work. Another of my favorite stories form this collection was No call of the wild this is a story that will make you cry for a forgotten dog that no one attended after his owners never came back. The story explains how the dog was standing at the doorway, vigilant waiting for his master to come back, but while he was waiting he was starving and dying of thirst.By Esmeralda Diaz
Posted March 1, 2013
Havana is a Really Big City is a REALLY interesting book. The short stories presented here are very unique and provide you with a better sense of what the Cuban culture is. There are a couple ones that make you laugh because they can be super weird. Other stories require close attention because they can get a bit confusing. I really liked this book because the detailed descriptions helped me picture the entire scene of each and every short story. I particularly enjoyed reading two short stories, “The Beatles vs. Duran Duran” and “For Men Only”. The first one is about a mom who is having a difference with her daughter because of their taste in music. At the end the mom learns to tolerate her daughter’s preferences in music and even likes it! “For Men Only” is about sexual discrimination regarding a guy that works as the head of the National City Bank of New York. There would be nasty comments on the bathrooms of the building about this guy and nobody knew who had done it. At the end you get surprised by the revelation of who did it. I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in learning more about Cuba and its literature BY Araiza F..Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.