Cecilia M. Fernandez is an independent instructor and journalist with a passion for immigrant literature. Her work has appeared in Latina Magazine, Accent Miami, Upstairs at the Duroc, Vista Magazine, and Le Siecle de George Sand. Recently, she finished a memoir entitled Leaving Little Havana which was selected as a finalist in the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Book Contest. She has been a reporter for The Stockton Record, The San Francisco Chronicle, and for the television stations WPBT, WSVN, WSCV, and WLTV in Miami. Cecilia earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University, an MA in English Literature from the University of Miami, and a BA in Journalism from the University of California. She teaches writing and literature at Broward College and the Miami International University of Art and Design.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I lived in Havana until I was six, when my parents brought me to the United States. Fidel Castro had ousted the right-wing dictator and instituted a communist regime, eliminating all freedoms and nationalizing all businesses and farms. This move to America, and its subsequent drama, has been the central subject matter of my writing. The disintegration of my family, my mother's downward spiral into insanity and my father's abandonment are issues that are closely connected with my immigration experience.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing stories shortly after arriving in Miami. I suffered from many colds and throat infections, so I would lie in bed and dictate tales of Santa Claus and animals to my mother who patiently wrote everything down in a notebook -- lost forever. This activity was a waiting game. We both waited for the inevitable abandonment of my father.
While most memoirs by Cuban-Americans revolve around childhood scenes in Cuba and explore the experiences of a young man, Leaving Little Havana is the first refugee memoir to focus on a Cuban girl growing up in America, rising above the obstacles and clearing a path to her own American Dream.