The narrator of Cartas al cielo is a young Afro-Cuban girl who, when her mother dies, must live with her aunt and cousins. Dependent on them and their goodwill, she’s deeply wounded by their taunts about how dark her skin is and their attacks on her behavior in general, including her choice not to straighten her hair. Her life is often miserable as she must endure casual racial prejudice and mistreatment from those around her. To keep her mother alive somehow, and to remember that she was once unconditionally loved, she writes letters telling “Mami” what she is suffering and feeling. Over the course of this powerful and moving novel composed of these letters, the heroine comes of age. Is her inner strength sufficient to overcome her pain and the bigotry of the people in her life?
Cartas al cielo was attacked in some quarters for exposing the problem of racism in contemporary Cuban society, but it went on to win major awards.