Hornby Island author brings Cuban culture to the forefront

Amanda Hale reads from Angela of the Stones at Courtenay Library

Amanda Hale lives on Hornby Island. But she loves Cuba – so much so, it has become the setting for a couple of novels, the second of which has recently been released.

Angela of the Stones is Hale’s second novel of short stories, set in Baracoa, a town near the eastern tip of Cuba.

“Each story is from the perspective of a different character, but they should be read consecutively, because there are characters who have appeared in previous stories,” Hale explained. “It’s all about the culture of this one place within Cuba. There are 16 stories in all, and only one of them is not set in the town of Baracoa. That one is set in Miami.”

The novel is a follow-up to In the Embrace of the Alligator.

“That one was rather autobiographical; it was my attempt to come to terms with the ever-changing, fluid culture of Cuba,” said Hale. “It’s a bewildering place, really. But these [Angela of the Stones] stories, I am not in them at all.”

Hale’s affinity with Cuba goes back 15 years, when she went there as an artist of a different capacity – a visual artist – to paint a mural in support of the revolution.

“We spent six weeks in Havana, and I was learning Spanish, as well as learning about the warmth and the inclusiveness of all these Cuban people, which impressed me greatly,” she said.

She returned to Havana a couple of years later, to paint another mural, and during that visit, she explored the country to some degree, ending up in Baracoa.

“I just fell in love with that place,” said Hale. “It just captured my imagination.”

Hale attempts to bring out the authentic Cuba in her novels. Rather than using Americanized resorts as settings, she has chosen a town true to its Cuban culture.

“There are a lot of people that just go to Veradero, or Caya Coco, and they come back with what I know to be a really false impression… it’s not at all like that. So really, I am writing to try and dispel some of the information that people outside of Cuba have about the country and about the people.”

And while the short stories are works of fiction, there is an element of truth as well.

“Most of the stories are based on people that I have either observed, been acquainted with, or know very well,” she said. “They are fictional, they are my imagination. But [I used] people who are a great inspiration to me. In fact, Cuban people, as a whole, are a great inspiration to me… they have had a very hard struggle to survive, and I have a great feeling for them.”

Hale is hosting a reading of Angela of the Stones Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6:30 p.m. at the Courtenay Public Library.

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