How pleased was I, to flip the calendar to March and see Havana. Later last year, writing a review of Teresa Dovalpage’s new mystery novel for The Chicago Review of Books, I realized just how little I knew about Cuba. And #HereandElsewhere started with my wanting to look for small – even incidental – ways to widen my world, to counter the inclination to withdraw when the news seems menacing, so here was the perfect excuse to widen it further.
Coincidentally, I started the new year by reading a Cuban-American author: Margarita Engle. That’s her All the Way to Havana (2017) in the photographs. Mike Curato’s bold and richly coloured illustrations urged me to request this title from the library. (Not familiar with the history of the 1950s American cars in Cuban culture, but curious? This CNN article not only outlines the history, but illuminates the Cubans’ business savvy in recognizing the potential for new income sources in changing times.)
“Some of this island’s old cars purr like kittens, but ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken…” Engle writes. Normally, I would be much more interested in a storybook about a chicken, but these illustrations pull me into the story, even if it is about cars (the endpapers have sketches of the most popular models which are pictured in full-colour in the book).