Amelia Montes reviews Mockingbird

“Theft and reclaiming what has been lost is a running theme in Cristina Garcia’s King of Cuba and Julie Trimingham’s Mockingbird

In Mockingbird by Julie Trimingham, a white woman named Mia follows her academic lover to Cuba since she hasn’t been able to find acting jobs back in the states.  What we have here is a lush, beautifully descriptive photomontage, or filmic narrative of Cuban scenery:  the malecón, their trip to Trinidad, their living quarters in Miramar: “a manicured neighborhood of twentieth-century villas that are now embassies and corporate headquarters.  Ours was a low-slung concrete building that clung, mollusk-like, to the edge of the harbor.  The shore is craggy, and they’ve built a wall along it, straight up from the rocks, a littoral girding.  We had a corner room up top, with windows that gave onto the water.”  Mia is unhappy.  She has been waiting for a commitment from Alex, a conventional proposal, which, at this point, seems impossible. Instead, what appears is a baby left in a car and Mia’s theft of a Cuban child.  Or is it theft?

This is not as much about Cuba as it is about the outsider/the white privileged individual entering a Latin American country and “taking over” in an effort to achieve a sense of self.  The lush prose accentuates all that is lacking in Mia. We follow her every foible which allows the reader to understand her motivations (as we do with Goyo and Fidel in King of Cuba).  Trimingham has worked for a number of years as a filmmaker, and in the realm of fiction, her work in film has probably helped her develop such razor sharp, beautiful descriptive scenes.  It’s interesting to read King of Cuba and Mockingbird back-to-back.  García’s novel is internally Cuban (with bombastic characters) while Trimingham’s is external, giving us much more of the Havana/Trinidad scenery as well as the ineptitude of the white Anglo foreigner (Mia) on an island she seems destined never to understand.”

Amelia Montes is a writer and professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is also the Director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies there. I am thankful to have her perspective on and review of Mockingbird!

La Bloga is a blog written by Latina and Latino writers, and dedicated to  relevant literature and issues.

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