MacKids Spotlight: Adrianna Cuevas

Adrianna Cuevas is the author 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez. Her new book Cuba in My Pocket tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy who leaves his family in Cuba to immigrate to the U.S. by himself, based on the author’s family history.

Adrianna shares more about her inspiration for the story and her advice for young writers here!

When describing Cuba in My Pocket, what’s your elevator pitch?

Adrianna Cuevas: Cuba in My Pocket tells the story of Cumba, a Cuban boy who’s faced with moving to the United States by himself after an attempt to overthrow Castro fails in the 1960s. He has to adjust to a new environment, people, and language while wondering what has become of his family back on the island.


What inspired you to write Cuba in My Pocket?

Adrianna: After including a small bit of my father’s immigration story in The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, I knew I wanted to tell his entire story so that I could honor his journey. It’s my way of keeping a bit of my father with me, especially after he passed away last year.


Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.

Adrianna: My senior English teacher in Miami, Florida used to tell me she’d save my essay papers for last so that she could read them ‘as a treat.’ This gave me a big head regarding my writing which was quickly deflated in my freshman year of college when I had a professor who informed me that my writing, while good, could use a lot of work. Both of these teachers showed me the joy of delighting others with my writing while also continuing to push myself to improve.


What is the first step in your creative process?  

Adrianna: I like to open a document on my computer (because my handwriting is illegible and my brain gets angry that my hand writes too slowly) and let myself brainstorm any idea I want. I don’t edit myself or try to force things to make sense. That’s a problem for Future Me.


What advice would you give to young writers? 

Adrianna: Don’t censor yourself before you even get started. Yes, you can tell this story. Yes, you are good enough. Don’t stop yourself before you’ve even begun! And, yes, you should totally add that fart joke on page five.


What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?

Adrianna: I’m pretty sure that was the height of my obsession with an illustrated edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories and poems. “The Pit and the Pendulum” was my favorite and I stared at the pen and ink drawing depicting a man being sliced in half for hours. I promise you I was a well-adjusted child. Kind of.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Adrianna Cuevas is the author of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez (FSG BYR, 2020). She is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. After teaching Spanish and ESOL for sixteen years, she decided to pursue her passion for storytelling. Adrianna currently resides outside of Austin, TX with her husband and son where they enjoy hiking, traveling, and cooking lots of Cuban food.


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas
Ages 8-12
On Sale September 21, 2021

By the author of 2021 Pura Belpré Honor Book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, a sweeping, emotional middle grade historical novel about a twelve-year-old boy who leaves his family in Cuba to immigrate to the U.S. by himself, based on the author’s family history.

When the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 solidifies Castro’s power in Cuba, twelve-year-old Cumba’s family makes the difficult decision to send him to Florida alone. Faced with the prospect of living in another country by himself, Cumba tries to remember the sound of his father’s clarinet, the smell of his mother’s lavender perfume.

Life in the United States presents a whole new set of challenges. Lost in a sea of English speakers, Cumba has to navigate a new city, a new school, and new freedom all on his own. With each day, Cumba feels more confident in his new surroundings, but he continues to wonder: Will his family ever be whole again? Or will they remain just out of reach, ninety miles across the sea?


Praise for Cuba in My Pocket:

“Inspired by stories from her father’s childhood, Cuevas’ latest is a triumph of the heart…A compassionate, emotionally astute portrait of a young Cuban in exile.”
— Kirkus, starred review

“Cuevas’ intense and immersive account of a Cuban boy’s experience after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion brings a specific point in history alive … Drawing from her father’s boyhood experiences, Cuevas does an outstanding job of eliciting the confusing array of emotions Cumba feels as he is thrown into life in a new country.”
— Booklist, starred review

“Cuevas packs this sophomore novel with palpable emotions and themes of friendship, love, longing, and trauma, attentively conveying tumultuous historical events from the lens of one young refugee.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Cuba in My Pocket is an authentic and moving portrayal of a tragic era in Cuban history, told with empathy and hope.”
— Margarita Engle, Newbery Honor-winning author and Young People’s Poet Laureate Emeritus

“Adrianna Cuevas has written a book that is a beautiful gift to the memory of her father, filled with love and a great respect for the culture and folklore of Cuba. The travails of Cumba Fernandez, a young Cuban wrenched into exile, will make all readers want to root for him, as he finds courage he didn’t know he had, dares to be hopeful when his heart is broken, and learns to always carry Cuba in his pocket.”
— Ruth Behar, author of Pura Belpré award-winning book, Lucky Broken Girl, and Sydney Taylor Notable book, Letters from Cuba


Download the teacher’s guide for Cuba in My Pocket here!


Read more author Q&As here!