Marta here: I first met Christina, author of The Red Umbrella, a couple of years ago at Cuba Nostalgia in Miami. My first impression of her was that she was "the real deal." She cares deeply about her subject matter because, in the case of The Red Umbrella, it is very close to her family's story. She has been gracious enough to share her inspiration for writing this beautiful novel.
by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Technically, I can’t say or write about “Cuando Sali de Cuba” as I have never been to the island. However, since I was a little girl, I have been hearing stories of how my parents left Cuba through Operation Pedro Pan.
The heartbreak of saying goodbye at the airport’s pecera, the pain of leaving everything behind and the fear of an unknown future in a foreign country was repeated countless times. Yet, the magnitude of this exodus of children was lost on me. Growing up I would roll my eyes whenever the topic was brought up. To me, it was old news. In fact, we all have those family stories that we so often take for granted until those who tell the tales are no longer with us. Thankfully, I had a wake-up call before it was too late.
I was an aspiring writer searching for inspiration to write my first novel. It wasn’t until I heard another author talking about her book (Erika’s Story written by Ruth Vander Zee) that I realized the powerful story that I had within my own family which was being lost to the sands of time.
I saw that if my own kids didn’t grasp this important part of American history (over 14,000 Cuban children being sent to the U.S., by themselves, is a HUGE part of American history… not just Cuban-American history), how could I expect others, who didn’t have a family connection, to even know about Operation Pedro Pan?
That’s when I decided to write The Red Umbrella. I guess this was, in a way, my “Cuando Sali de Cuba” moment because I gained a deeper understanding of what it was like for these children of Operation Pedro Pan to leave their home, their parents, their friends. I tried to imagine myself being placed into those circumstances and then I put my main character, Lucia, into similar situations.
It has been with great joy that I have received countless emails and comments from many Operation Pedro Pan kids saying that they are grateful that their story is finally being shared with a new generation. I am so very proud to have had a small part in sharing their “Cuando Sali de Cuba” story.
MBFCF Readers, please say hello to Christina Diaz Gonzalez. I was personally floored when I read her debut, The Red Umbrella. She so perfectly captured the conflicts and fears of what it must have been like for an unaccompanied minor to come to a new country and how they might react in that frightening and difficult situation. She is as talented as she is lovely.
Christina has recently completed her 2nd novel, A Thunderous Whisper, set in the sleepy Spanish town of Guernica during World War II.
MBFCF Blogiversary Giveaway #4:
The Red Umbrella and A Thunderous Whisper (both autographed by the author)
One person will win both books, autographed by Christina. Please leave a comment on this post for a chance to win the books. Answer one or both of the following questions:
- Do you know (or are you related to) any Pedro Pans?
- Did you ever have your own "Cuando Sali de Cuba" moment? (The realization of what an enormous thing had happened to your family.)
I'll choose a winner at the end of MBFCF Blogiversary Giveaway Week on Monday, October 8th, 2012 at 11 am.