Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So There's This Black Woman, Cuban Guy and a Chinese Woman...

I'm back from Miami and oh boy do I miss that nice warm weather. Eighty degrees in November? I loved my little sojourn south. But even better than the weather was the company I kept.

The fantastic organizers of the Miami Book Fair paired me with two wonderful authors on a panel entitled, Family Stories. The other two authors were Helen Tse and Carlos Frias.

Helen Tse calls herself the accidental author but I believe she is too modest. She penned the memoir, Sweet Mandarin which tells the story of five generations of the women in her extraordinary family. Starting life as soybean farmers, the Tse family went from rags to riches and back again so many times, I lost count as she summarized her fascinating story during our discussion. What I couldn't believe is that Helen is the first British-born Chinese author to ever document her story. She's become the overnight Amy Tan sensation in the UK. The book came out in 2007 in the UK and this year in the United States. Stay tuned to the Meltingpot for a review and interview with Helen Tse.

Carlos Frias was the Cuban guy on the panel. His memoir, Take Me With You, was just released and tells the tale of his return to Cuba after only hearing about the country of his ancestors in family stories and secret conversations. A reporter for the Palm Beach Post, Frias was given 12 days to go to Cuba and dig up his own family history. Originally slated to be a feature story in the paper, it developed into this heart-warming and engaging book.

And then I talked about living la vida Kinky. It was great. The three of us made for a really global perspective on family, culture and fitting in in foreign places. I, for one, can't wait to read Sweet Mandarin and Take Me With You over the Christmas break when I have an eight-hour transatlantic flight to look forward to.

What are you going to read this Christmas?


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