ABR Author mixed culture with humor in writing (video)

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

April 11, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated April 10, 2013 at 11:11 p.m.

Christina Garcia

Christina Garcia

Ashley Martinez, 30, was in tears upon meeting one of her favorite literary heroes - Cuban-American author Cristina Garcia.

Martinez moved to Victoria about a year ago when her husband was contracted to work for Caterpillar.

To her surprise, although she had moved from a major metropolitan area with a bustling art scene, she was suddenly face-to-face with the author of her all-time favorite book, "Dreaming in Cuban."

Garcia, 54, read to a bemused, attentive audience at the University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review Reading Series on Thursday afternoon.

Garcia is a professor and university chair in creative writing at the Texas State University at San Marcos.

She was invited to read as part of the series by Dagoberto Gilb, UHV's writer-in-residence and executive director of Centro Victoria.

"I was introduced to Buc-ee's on the way here," the author said. "They have miles of beef jerky. I've insisted we stop on the way home."

With a high-pitched, inquisitive tone, the author began the lecture with a reading from her 2004 novel, "Monkey Hunting."

The novel was sparked with a question Garcia posed to herself when she was 5 years old, living in New York City.

"There was this Cuban-Chinese restaurant where we'd have Sunday dinner," Garcia said. "It was this miraculous place where you could get Chow mein with Cuban pork and black beans."

The author thought, how was a place like this possible?

Garcia later learned a Chinese population had lived in Cuba since 1948.

From "Monkey Hunting," Garcia read from a sensuous scene about a young, pregnant Chinese girl who requires her Cuban lover to smother himself in fish sauce before each kiss.

The author changed the inflection of her voice to fit her Chinese and Cuban characters.

Next, the author read from her new book, "King of Cuba," scheduled for a wide release May 21.

Before the start of her final reading, Garcia asked, "Does anyone know what a 'penga' is?"

Silence consumed the audience.

"It means penis," Garcia said.

Laughter rippled through the room.

The author then read a fictionalized encounter a young Fidel Castro experiences when he first sees his father's penis on accident.

Almost everyone exploded with laughter after the reading; many were left red in the face.

Garcia twisted her wrist around in a clockwise motion, explaining the creative process between each of her character structures.

"I loved the parts when she started speaking in Spanish," said UHV student Jeffrey Olivares, of San Antonio. "I can't speak it, but I was able to understand some parts."



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