One Island, Many Voices


One Island, Many Voices: Conversations with Cuban-American Writers
Eduardo R. del Rio
2008, University of Arizona Press
216 pages

EDUARDO DEL RIO’S effort to discern the distinguishing characteristics of Cuban-American writers addresses what the author admits is one of the most controversial issues surrounding Latino literature: the lack of a critical consensus about what is to be termed a Cuban-American text.

While similar levels of discord exist about other literatures that might be described in one way or another (and rightly or wrongly) as “ethnic”, the author points out that resolution of this labelling issue is imperative for canon formation.

But the book and, through it, the views of the 12 key writers whose work is examined, reveal significant differences of opinion when it comes to what is Cuban-American.

This work, in which Del Rio interviews writers born in Cuba but who have lived in the US for a significant period, in fact reveals a kaleidoscope of relationships with the mother country and interpretations of the writer’s role.

As a result, it does not resolve the central problematic, although it does advance key themes that the author argues are elemental to the Cuban-American condition, such as memory and exile.

It would be unfair to expect one text to do much more, and the author is realistic and reasonable in his ambitions and observations.

Moreover, the insights given by One Island, Many Voices into the work of a spectrum of important writers – from playwright Dolores Prida to the author and literary critic Gustavo Pérez Firmat – and their own views on identity, comprise an eloquent contribution to the study of Latino literature, and this book will be a valuable addition to scholarly reading lists. – GO’T