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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hostal Jamil by Ivonne Lamazares

On March 12th, in honor of Women's History Month, Miami Dade College hosted novelist Ivonne Lamazares who left her homeland of Cuba in 1962 at the age of thirteen.

In 2000 Houghton Mifflin published her first novel The Sugar Island. In addition to various published articles, she has also published her stories in Blue Mesa Review and A Century of Cuban Writers in Florida.

After a brief introduction by Josett Peat, chairperson of the English Department at the north campus, Dr. Lamazares provided the audience with a little history and background to introduce her newest short story "Hostal Jamil" published in The Southern Review for 2009.

Although I have known Ivonne for many years, I am always overwhelmed by her calmness, poise and overall presence when she stands before an audience. Her love of words and the creative process quickly surfaces as she begins to read the words. Many who have read her work acknowledge her creative writing abilities but those who know her better also recognize her exemplary abilities as teacher, for she often touches or transforms some one's life in some way.

On this particular evening, she shared with the audience the story of a girl and her grandmother who flee Cuba and arrive in Spain just days after the death of Francisco Franco whose Fascist regime ruled Spain for 36 years. As she began to read the short story, the room grew very quiet and all eyes fixed on the woman standing at the podium under the spotlight. Her voice soft and steady yet clear and overpowering at times began to utter the words that in turn painted pictures in my mind. As the time went by I found myself entangled in the story watching from across the street or hiding in a corner of the room as the scenes unfolded.

An immigrant myself, I quickly understood many of the underlying themes of the story, and at times felt the knot in my throat as I struggled not to cry when I remembered my own grandmother who had sacrificed so much of herself for me and my brother. This story could have been my story or the story of any young immigrant girl arriving in a foreign land where all is strange and different and nothing seems like home. Even when home is a horrible place, it is still home.

When she read the last words of the story "tomorrow we wake up free" and looked up at the audience, my heart and mind which had traveled across the ocean, had now returned to American soil once again. Stories like this one remind me that our words do more than entertain, persuade or inform; our words also serve to remember and honor those we never wish to forget.

Ivonne's achievements serve as inspiration to all women who dream and wish for great things in their life. She has surely left a positive and lasting impression on me.

I urge you to obtain a copy of The Southern Review 2009 and read "Hostal Jamil." You can also read an excerpt from Ivonne Lamazares' novel The Sugar Island in the National Endowment for the Arts.

About The Sugar Island


  1. You wrote this in a deeply moving way and it gave me even more insight into you and your extremely kind sensitive nature. I felt as if you somehow spoke of your own life's journey here. Even more so, your own heart, and it is a beautiful heart, so sincere, earnest and warm.

    Speaking of a warm heart: I never forgot your comment on my blog about finding the ancient old tree that you had never seen before and how you ran to it and hugged it. That tells so much of who you are.

    Thank you for sending this.
    Hugs and love,

  2. I have to agree with Robin. Your students are so blessed to have you.


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