Mangos, Bananas and Coconuts: A Cuban Love Story
by Himilce Novas
Published: June 30, 1996
The twin protagonists of Mangos, Bananas and Coconuts emerge from the lush tropics of the Cuban countryside like Caribbean Tristans and Isoldes, bound to each other in an eternal embrace that neither politics nor geography, nor the ill-will of family and society can break.
Like so many timeless tales, Mangos, Bananas and Coconuts begins with the love of a man and a woman from opposite ends of the social strata and rises to mythic proportions as their newly born twins are separated at birth. The son is raised in wealth and privilege in the affluent exile community of Florida; the daughter and her father scratch out a living in New York’s Spanish Harlem. In spite of the realistically portrayed social and economic differences in their upbringing, destiny and all of the forces of fate and chance conspire to bring together the twin protagonists in an ingenious and sincerely amorous embrace. The four elements of nature—earth, wind, fire, and water—all participate in this magically real world, where their parents’ mystical union has lead to a quest for a second and more fulfilled and transcendent one.
“This extraordinary book is the romance of Tristan and Isolde told again in the tropics, a land which is not found on any map but only in the memory of exile.”
—G. Cabrera Infante
“A disarming blend of magical realism and pungent social satire, this extraordinary debut novel is an incandescent tale of love, double incest, mistaken identity and immigrant dreams…Her lyrical, fiercely intelligent novel…adroitly probes the pressures facing immigrants adjusting to Yanqui realities.”
Santa Barbara, California
Born into a family of prominent intellectuals with a journalistic tradition, Himilce Novas showed early signs of a promising writing career when, still in her early teens, several of her poems were published in a literary journal by Nobel Prize winner Camilo José Cela.
Fleeing Castro’s Cuba with her parents in 1960, Himilce Novas grew up in New York City. Over the years, she honed her craft into a successful journalistic career as a newspaper and magazine editor for such publications as The New York Times, Conniseur, and The Christian Science Monitor. As she rose through the ranks of the publishing industry, she continued her creative writing pursuits, turning her pen to writing plays. Her play, Free This Day: A Trial in Seven Exhibits, was published by Joseph Papp in Scripts.
Novas is the author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. Her thrilling novel intertwining one Cuban-American Jewish family’s personal tragedy with the contemporary struggle in Cuba, Princess Papaya (Arte Público Press, 2004), has already received critical acclaim. Isabel Allende said: “I love Himilce’s characters and her understanding of the Latino soul in all its guises, traditions, and classes. Her writing is universal and timeless. Princess Papaya is beautifully rendered, chilling, touching, and haunting.”
Her fiction works include Mangos, Bananas and Coconuts: A Cuban Love Story (Arte Público Press, 1996; Putnam/Riverhead paperback 1996). Among her works of non-fiction, Latino Art and Culture in the United States (The National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1996), Everything You Need to Know about Latino History History (Plume/Penguin, 1994; 1998; 2003) Everything You Need to Know about Asian American History (Plume/Penguin, 1996; 2004) – both of which met with extraordinary critical acclaim. The Hispanic 100: A Ranking of the Latino Men and Women Who Have Most Influenced American Thought and Culture (Citadel Press, 1995), Remembering Selena: A Tribute in Pictures and Words / Recordando a Selena: Un tributo en palabras y fotos (St. Martin’s Press, 1995), Latin American Cooking Across the USA and the Spanish language edition, La Buena Mesa (Knopf, 1996), selected among the eight best cookery books of the year by various prestigious publications and featured in Food and Wine’s “The Best of the Best.”
Since 1994, Himilce Novas has taught Writing, American literature, Film Writing and other subjects as visiting author/professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB); Wellesley College; Clark University; and Tulane University. During her time at UCSB, she produced and hosted THE NOVAS REPORT, a talk radio program dealing with books and other cultural and contemporary issues from a unique international perspective and a solution-oriented approach to government, education, lifestyles and the arts.
Aside from her professional and literary endeavors, Novas is an eloquent motivational speaker, lecturing across the country at the most prominent universities and prestigious speaking forums.