University of Rochester

Writer Cristina Garcia to Read From Prize-winning Novel

August 30, 1999

Cristina Garcia, whose novels about Cubans and Cuban-Americans have been hailed for their lush prose, compelling characters, and rich detail, will read from her work The AgŁero Sisters at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, in 207 Schlegel Hall on the University of Rochester River Campus.

The book has won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction awarded by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies and the Department of English, in conjunction with Writers & Books.

Admission to Garcia's reading and award presentation is free. A reception and book signing in the Rotunda of Schlegel Hall follows the event. A former political journalist, Garcia was born in Havana in 1958 but came to the United States with her family after Castro's overthrow of the Cuban government.

Growing up in New York City, Garcia developed an American side but kept her Cuban side private, the author recalled in a 1997 newspaper interview. After traveling back to Cuba as an adult she became "incorrigibly Cuban."

Her first novel, Dreaming in Cuban, was published in 1992 and was nominated for a National Book Award. Her works explore how Cubans are divided not only by geography, but also by their own disposition to present individual and different versions of history and truth. The surrealistic elements of Garcia's books also reflect the "magic realism" of Latin American writers.

The AgŁero Sisters tells the story of a family that's been separated physically and emotionally. Reina, a tall, dark beauty, grew up in Cuba, while her sister Constancia, a pale and petite beauty expert, has lived in the United States for three decades. Constancia is drawn back to Cuba in search of an explanation for her mother's tragic death. Time magazine called the book "an extraordinary new novel (that) does justice to the Cuba of history as well as the Cuba of imagination."

"The Kafka Committee chose Cristina Garcia's book The AgŁero Sisters out of more than 60 entries submitted by publishers across North America," said Janet Catherine Berlo, Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women's Studies and chair of the awards committee. "We were impressed by the vividness of its writing and its memorable characters, especially those two indomitable women, Reina and Constancia AgŁero."