*Semifinalist, Autumn House Press Non Fiction Prize, 2021
The Mango Chronicle Trailer: “Everything was fine…”
A preadolescent boy is caught in Castro’s Revolution and struggles with trading a Cuban Huck Finn childhood for the price of liberty after fleeing with his family to New Jersey via Mexico.
The boy reminisces about his roots in the barrio. He chronicles spirited narratives that range from stealing a rowboat and being nearly capsized by a Russian tanker, to befriending an old fisherman who tells him a haunting tale, to being bullied by a neighborhood thug, to cockfights gone bad, and to being nearly mauled by a wild boar. He witnesses the plight of captives taken near his home during the Bay of Pigs invasion, and tries to navigate the complexities of growing up in a machismo, homophobic culture.
The U.S. blockade of Cuba during the Missile Crisis unexpectedly disrupts their egress. He and his family endure the next several months in isolation.
As a new expatriate, the boy lands in Mexico, He eventually arrives at freedom in blue-collar, New Jersey. He endures the many ordeals of being an immigrant in an at-times intolerant culture and struggles with adjusting to American life. But he perseveres.
He scratches his way from a Green Card to American citizen, then to becoming a highly respected professor of medicine at two major medical schools in the United States. He eventually returns to the island in search of his roots, of the mango tree and of the boyhood for which he so dearly longed. He doesn’t succeed altogether. But he doesn’t lose hope.
What they are saying:
“In the pages of The Mango Chronicle you will awaken in a time and place that no longer exists. Cuba before the Castro Revolution was a boy’s paradise, as well as his hell in his universal coming-of-age dealing with bullies, then loss, followed with a flight to America…His carefully carved sentences linger in a reader’s mind long after the pages are turned, telling us how he became a man with two souls.” –Shelley Fraser Mickle, Former NPR commentator, author of “White House Wild Child”
“A complete joy to read, … vividly evokes the lost world of pre-Castro Cuba and exquisitely registers the aftershocks of migration. Richly detailed, sharply observed, quietly humorous, and deeply moving, this gentle and sensuous memoir chronicles both the loss of a home and the growth of a soul.” Joy Castro, PhD,Professor of English and Ethnic Studies, University of Nebraska.