The Tower of the Antilles

Stories by Achy Obejas

Achy Obejas’s stories of contemporary Cuba explore how history and fate intrude on even the most ordinary of lives. The Cubans in her story collection are haunted by islands: the island they fled, the island they’ve created, the island they were taken to or forced from, the island they long for, the island they return to, and the island that can never be home again.

In “Supermán,” several possible story lines emerge about a 1950s Havana sex-show superstar who disappeared as soon as the Revolution triumphed. “North/South” portrays a migrant family trying to cope with separation, lives on different hemispheres, and the eventual disintegration of blood ties. “The Cola of Oblivion” follows the path of a young woman who returns to Cuba, and who inadvertently uncorks a history of accommodation and betrayal among the family members who stayed behind during the revolution. In the title story, “The Tower of the Antilles,” an interrogation reveals a series of fantasies about escape and a history of futility.

With language that is both generous and sensual, Obejas writes about existences beset by events beyond individual control, and poignantly captures how history and fate intrude on even the most ordinary of lives.

 

Praise for Achy Obejas’ work:

“Questions of personal and national identity percolate through the stories in Obejas’s memorable short fiction collection, most of which is set in Cuba, the author’s birthplace . . . These 10 stories show Obejas’s talent, illuminating Cuban culture and the innermost lives of her characters.”
Publishers Weekly

“Obejas’s stories demonstrate an acute understanding of being caught between two places and cultures as different as America and Cuba.”
Library Journal

“By turns searing and subtly magical, the stories in Obejas’ vividly imagined collection are propelled by her characters’ contradictory feelings about and unnerving experiences in Cuba . . . For all the human tumult and deftly sketched and reverberating historical and cultural contexts that Obejas incisively creates in these poignant, alarming tales, she also offers lyrical musings on the mysteries of the sea and the vulnerability of islands and the body. Obejas’ plots are ambushing, her characters startling, her metaphors fresh, her humor caustic, and her compassion potent in these intricate and haunting stories of displacement, loss, stoicism, and realization.”
Booklist

“The rich thematic and symbolic texture of much of the collection rewards repeated reading and promises continued insight. How Cuba’s distinctive history and culture shape the unique negotiations with identity, memory and the idea of home that complicate the lives of the residents, exiles, and expatriates who populate this volume is a worthy subject indeed.”
Lambda Literary

“Obejas writes with gentleness, without flashy wording or gimmicks, about people trying to figure out where they belong . . . The language we use and the stories we tell impact the futures we can imagine, but they are also restricted by what has come before. Obejas’s Cuban characters, like most Americans, have limited access to the resources they need. One gets the sense that Obejas, like the Maldivian president, thinks it is time that the world takes these systemic problems on.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Obejas’s use of language is masterful and intimate, deeply felt and projected . . . The Tower of the Antilles joins a rich store of in-between literature from Cubans over the past half-century, by both those who left and those who stayed. But it rises above this sea of work, claiming a place that is generally less politically wrought, instead depending for its power on a rich unfolding and unexpected tensions. I highly recommend this collection.”
World Literature Today

“Exile is a murky subject that inevitably calls into question what it means to be Cuban — on and off the island; then, now, and in the future. Obejas came to this country as a refugee and her stories offer a nuanced view of the changes that take place within refugee communities over the course of a prolonged exile. Caught between the United States and Cuba, her characters often feel adrift, caught between nations, diverting cultures and languages. These feelings often manifest in their bodies and in their interactions with others. The Tower of the Antilles reveals the extraordinary power that feelings of instability and in-betweenness arising from the trauma of exile hold over those who leave and those who stay.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“For twenty years I’ve been a fan of the genius Achy Obejas—since I first read Memory Mambo in 1996. Obejas has been the model of a writer for me in every way—a master in her aesthetics, an inspiration in her politics, fearless and vital in every page. The Tower of the Antilles is another brilliant collection, a story of many Cubas, intensely personal and political, erotic and cerebral. I found myself holding my breath as I devoured this book, as I navigated the various avenues of the body, the blood, and all those seemingly impossible roads that lead to a place we try to call home.”
— Porochista Khakpour, author of The Last Illusion

“These stories are like a long dream of many parts, mixed desire, love, longing, anger—Obejas is a master of the human, able to conjure her characters’ heartbeats right under your fingertips, their breaths in your ears.”
— Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night

“Obejas writes like an angel, which is to say: gloriously . . . one of Cuba’s most important writers.”
— Junot Díaz

 

Publisher: Akashic Books
Pub Date: July 4, 2017
Hardcover, 150 pages, $19.95,
ISBN: 9781617755392
Available wherever books are sold, including AkashicBooks.com
Achy Obejas is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins, Days of Awe, and three other books of fiction. She edited and translated (into English) the anthology Havana Noir, and has since translated Junot Díaz, Rita Indiana, Wendy Guerra, and many others. In 2014, she was awarded a USA Ford Fellowship for her writing and translation. The Tower of the Antilles is her latest work.

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