Medina, Pablo 1948-
MEDINA, Pablo 1948-
PERSONAL: Born 1948, in Cuba; immigrated to United States, 1960.
CAREER: New School for Social Research (later New School University), New York, NY, faculty member in graduate writing program, then director of undergraduate writing program; member, board of directors, Associated Writing Programs; Warren Wilson College, member of M.F.A. faculty.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Arts grant; Woodrow Wilson/Lila Wallace Reader's Digest grant.
Pork Rind and Cuban Songs, Nuclassics and Science Publishing (Washington, DC), 1975.
Exiled Memories: A Cuban Childhood, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1990.
Arching into the Afterlife, Bilingual Press (Tempe, AZ), 1991.
The Marks of Birth, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1994.
The Floating Island, White Pine Press (Buffalo, NY), 1999.
The Return of Felix Nogara (novel), Persea Books, 2000 (New York, NY).
Puntos de apoyo (poetry), Centro Cultral Cubano de Nueva York (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Antioch Review, Pivot, and Poetry.
SIDELIGHTS: In Cuban-born novelist Pablo Medina's novel The Return of Felix Nogara, poet and scholar Nogara returns to his homeland, the Caribbean island of Barata, after the death of dictator Nicolas Campion opens the island up to a more relaxed government. A United States citizen, but a Baratan exile in Miami since he was twelve, the middle-aged Nogara struggles to reconcile thirty-eight years of longing for his home with the bleak reality he sees after his return. Nogara has ostensibly returned to the island to find his dying mother, but under the surface his mission is aimed toward resurrecting a life of meaning by recovering the culture, history, and happiness he claimed by right years ago, before he left Baratan soil.
Local cabbie Martin becomes Nogara's guide to the run-down cities and unmarked streets of modern Barata. The frenzied urban and commercial development occurring since Campion's death is matched only by the decay and dereliction seen elsewhere on the island. With Martin's help, Nogara eventually finds his mother, and learns how to function within the new political and personal reality of Barata. As Nogara's story unfolds, the history of the island and its people is revealed. Nogara decides to remain on the island, where he himself drives a cab until his death. "Medina paints a vivid and even comedic portrait of the Baratans and their history," observed Kristine Huntley in Booklist. Barata is a stand-in for Medina's own homeland of Cuba, and the book functions as a meditation on Cuban life after Castro, a task that "Pablo Medina has done, with great success, in his second novel, The Return of Felix Nogara," wrote Bob Shacochis in the New York Times. However, "In Medina's bleak, searing vision, little changes in Barata, which remains a country of poverty and desolation, where the future is as fragile as the crumbling edifices of the past," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Margee Smith, reviewing the book in Library Journal, commented that Medina "crafts a beautifully written tale that is human, humorous, and full of insight."
"It all sounds a bit gloomy but it is not," Shacochis commented. "Medina peppers his narrative with the bawdy irrepressible black humor of Cuba, delivering a compressed Marquezian history of Barata's brutes and Caudillos, martyrs and fools, and achieves a comic gravity that hovers as a backdrop to the existential challenge of Felix's return."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2000, Kristine Huntley, review of The Return of Felix Nogara, p. 66.
Library Journal, August 1, 2000, Margee Smith, review of The Return of Felix Nogara, p. 160.
New York Times, October 22, 2000, Bob Scacochis, "Return of the Native," review of The Return of Felix Nogara, section 7, p. 21.
New York Times Book Review, August 18, 2002, review of The Return of Felix Nogara, p. 20.
Publishers Weekly, May 9, 1994, review of The Marks of Birth, p. 61; August 21, 2000, review of The Return of Felix Nogara, p. 48.
New York State Writers' Institute Web site,http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/ (November 25, 2003), "Pablo Medina."
Persea Books Web site,http://www.perseabooks.com/ (November 20,2003).*