Saturday, August 14, 2021

Emerita Professor Wins San Diego Book Award for Her Memoir MY NATIVE LAND IS MEMORY Published by San Diego State University Press

Oliva Espín, professor emerita of women’s studies, won a San Diego Book Awards Association award for her memoir My Native Land is Memory: Stories of a Cuban Childhood published by SDSU Press.   

The narrative explores life in Cuba during the 40s and 50s and enlightens readers about her life experiences during this transitional time.   

“Right from the beginning, ‘My Native Land’ is a raw, compelling journey to a Cuba about to be changed forever. Oliva Espín’s unique perspective and powerful writing emotionally captures an immigrant’s story that resonates across countries and is relevant today,” wrote Ronnie Ramos, executive editor of The Daily Memphian.  

Here we ask Espín to delve into the process and publication of her memoir.  Can you tell me a bit about your writing process?  

I wrote without following any particular order. When I remembered something I wrote about it. Eventually I put the pieces in chronological order and then wrote some pieces to "fill the holes"  in the time sequence. Writing about some events made me remember others.   I workshopped the pieces in my women writers group and also had some friends read the manuscript. Their feedback, questions, and suggestions helped me clarify points and revise the writing.  How long did you spend writing before being published? It took me about 10 years to write. The manuscript underwent many transformations along the way. After it was finished, it took some time to get it published.  

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What do you want people to take away after reading your memoir? 

First, I hope that reading about my experiences touches people and evokes some moments in their own lives. Many people who have life experiences very different from mine have told me that they see some similarities despite those differences. In turn, hearing people's comments about the book and about my life story has also made me see many events in a new light.  Next, I want people to understand Cuba a little bit better. Specifically, pre-revolutionary Cuba. Most people know very little about it or harbor distorted notions and misinformation about the country. I hope they get a small slice of life in Cuba in the 40s and 50s and a bit about the transition to the revolution, as experienced by one person. I like them to see some of everyday life back there and then when they read my story. Although my story is just one story, I hope it illuminates other stories. 

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How did you feel when you were told you won the award from San Diego Book Awards? 

Delighted, of course. I have written many academic books before, but this book is a completely new way of writing for me and it is also a lot closer to me than anything I have written before. That's why it took me so long to finish. It is gratifying that the effort paid off. Writing this book has opened new doors and created new friendships for me. The process of its creation and publication has also put me in touch with my own childhood in a renewed way. Getting this award is an affirmation of the story and its writing.   ​​​​​​​

San Diego Book Awards Association: Announcing the 2021 San Diego Book Awards Winners


order from SDSU Press: espin_autobio

San Diego State University Press Author Oliva Espin Virtual Book Presentation! My Native Land is Memory for Florida International University's Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs!

 More information here.

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