Today I’m pleased to be sharing my thoughts about Until We’re Fish by Susannah R Drissi as part of the blog tour organised by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Propertius Press. Thank you to Susannah for a signed copy of the book, sent from California. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.
A man can be destroyed but never defeated.
Stunning and elegiac, Susannah Rodríguez Drissi’s debut novel Until We’re Fish juxtaposes vivid landscapes, brilliant, playful meditations on life, and penetrating insights into the human heart, to richly bring to life the story of rapscallion dreamer Elio, a Cuban teen whose unbridled confidence is severely tested after a near-fatal shark attack.
Elio longs for freedom from the dreary home he shares with his mother. He spends his days and nights fantasizing about an American bike and Maria, his vivacious next-door neighbor. Two obstacles stand in his way: the 1959 Cuban Revolution and Maria’s dream of moving to Chicago. Yet Elio is steadfast in believing that somehow, some way he will get both the girl and the Schwinn. When an injury leaves him terrified of the sea, he’s faced with an impossible choice: to overcome his fear and do whatever it takes to realize his vision, or to stay safe, and risk losing everything he’s been living for.
An unforgettable coming-of-age story, Until We’re Fish blends the romance, violence, mood, and ethos of the Cuban Revolution with a young man’s hopeless and heroic first love. With the truth of experience and the lyricism of poetry, Rodríguez Drissi constructs an exquisite, gossamer tale of revolution and hearts set adrift. A Don Quixote for our times, Until We’re Fish is an intimate exploration into the souls of people willing to sacrifice everything to be free.
This beautifully written book starts in 1959, as young Elio deals with being being abandoned by his father, who has travelled to the USA to find fame and fortune. Elio suffers an injury at the beach and loses his nerve for swimming in the sea.
The book follows Elio, Pepe and Maria, as they grow up and start work in Cuba as the revolution changes the lives of the Cubans. Maria dreams of moving to Chicago but Elio doesn’t want to leave. The book is a blend of a coming of age story and a historical fiction novel. Would they stay or would they try to flee to the USA, to be able to live the consumer dream (Maria was obsessed with the Sears catalogue as a teenager).
This is a complex story, with Elio, Pepe and Maria on a variety of life journeys through over 30 years. I was engrossed by the story and enjoyed my virtual visit to Cuba, a world very different to England, especially during this time period. A book for both history and travel fans.
Susannah Rodríguez Drissi, PhD is an award-winning Cuban-born poet, writer, playwright, translator, director, producer, and scholar. She is Faculty in Writing Programs
at UCLA, Affiliate Scholar in UC-Cuba Program Initiative, and Associate Literary Editor for Cuba Counterpoints,Cuban and Caribbean Research Studies Institute. As a 1.5-generation writer (born in Cuba in the 1970s, but coming of age in the US), Rodríguez Drissi writes about Cuba through a double lens—from the vantage point of the native and also from the benefit of a temporal and geographical distance.
Her poems, short stories, creative nonfiction, and reviews have appeared in anthologies such as In Season—Stories of Discovery, Loss, Home, and Places in Between (2018 Florida Book Award Winner); and journals such as the Los Angeles Review of Books, Saw Palm, Literal Magazine, Diario de Cuba (Madrid), SX Salon, Raising Mothers, Acentos Review, Cuba Counterpoints, among other journals. Following readings at the University of California, Irvine and the University of
California, Los Angeles, her award-winning play, Houses Without Walls, premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2018. More recently, her short plays, The Fruit Flies and Rey y Atenea were selected to the 2019 Short+Sweet Theatre Festival and premiered at the Lee Strasberg Film & Theatre Institute, in Los Angeles. Rey y Atenea received an Audience Choice Award and was Finalist for the 2019 NBC Universal Talent Infusion Programs Award.
She is the author of the poetry collection The Latin Poet’s Guide to the Cosmos (Floricanto Press, 2019) and Rey y Atenea / Rey and Atenea, a Bilingual Edition (Cassandra Press, 2019). Her musical, Radio Nocturno, El Musical, wasscheduled to premiere at Miami Dade College’s Koubek Center, on August 6th, 2020, directed by Victoria Collado (John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons), musical direction by Jesse Sanchez (Hamilton, national tour), and produced by George Cabrera (Broadway Factor). The production was postponed due to COVID-19 and is now planned for August 2021.
Learn more at susannahrodriguezdrissi.com