Mestre-Reed, Ernesto 1964–
Mestre-Reed, Ernesto 1964–
PERSONAL: Born 1964, in Guantanamo, Oriente, Cuba; immigrated to Spain, then to the United States, 1972. Education: Tulane University, B.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn, NY. Office—Sarah Lawrence College, 1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708-5999.
CAREER: Writer. Gotham Writers' Workshop, New York, NY, instructor; visiting writer and lecturer, State University of New York—Oneonta and Union Settlement, New York; Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, creative writing instructor, 1999–.
AWARDS, HONORS: New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, 1996; Blue Mountain Center fellowship; MacDowell Colony fellowship; Guggenheim fellowship, 2004.
The Lazarus Rumba, Picador USA (New York, NY), 1999.
(Author of story) Beach, photographs by Morgan David, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Second Death of Unica Aveyano, Vintage Contemporaries (New York, NY), 2004.
(Translator) Antonio Orlando Rodriguez, The Last Masquerade, Rayo (New York, NY), 2005.
(Translator) Laura Esquivel, Malinche, illustrated by Jordi Castells, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to books, including Best American Gay Fiction, edited by Brian Bouldrey, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1996. Contributor to periodicals, including the James White Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Ernesto Mestre-Reed was born in Cuba and lived in Spain before immigrating to Miami, Florida, with his family. In addition to teaching creative writing, he is the author and translator of a number of volumes. Mestre-Reed's first novel, The Lazarus Rumba, attempts "to forge the uncreated conscience of his homeland, Cuba," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. According to the Library Journal contributor Mary Margaret Benson, The Lazarus Rumba "is a tightly woven epic" and a "magnificent first novel." It portrays how twentieth-century Cuban history influences a host of human and animal characters. These characters include dissident Alicia Lucientes, her acrobat cousin Hector Daluz, their family members, circus dwarf Senor Sariel, a priest, and a fighting rooster. "Interwoven throughout Alicia's saga are myriad narrative flights of fancy," stated Megan Harlan in the New York Times Book Review, who admitted that "Mestre's symphonic imagination proves mesmerizing." According to the Publishers Weekly critic, while The Lazarus Rumba does not achieve all of its ambitions, this "feverish, often baroque tale has undeniable power."
Mestre-Reed's second novel, The Second Death of Unica Aveyano, begins during the time period when opposing forces were attempting to determine the fate of Elian Gonzalez, a young Cuban boy who in 1999 set sail for Florida with his mother, who eventually perished on the trip. Elderly, frail, and dying of leukemia, Unica Aveyano leaves the nursing home where she lives with her husband, having been placed there by her daughter-in-law, and walks across a highway and into the sea. She is rescued by her male nurse, and her memories also survive, of life in Cuba as a young girl, of her teen love affair with worker activist Modesto Duarte, and of her bisexual son, who eventually perished on a raft as he attempted to flee Cuba after the rest of the family had left.
After Unica's near escape, the daughter-in-law sends her to New York to a doctor who offers treatment and hope. She travels there with her husband, gay grandson, and male nurse, giving her blessing when the two young men form a romantic attachment. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "the fluidity of sexual attraction and identity is indeed an integral theme; but the story is, properly, Unica's." Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson described Mestre-Reed as "a lyric novelist of uncommon power."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Second Death of Unica Aveyano, p. 480.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2003, review of The Second Death of Unica Aveyano, p. 1418.
Kliatt, July, 2004, Penelope Power, review of The Second Death of Unica Aveyano, p. 21.
Lambda Book Report, November, 2000, Jim Marks, review of Beach, p. 31.
Library Journal, June 1, 1999, Mary Margaret Benson, review of The Lazarus Rumba, p. 175.
New York Times Book Review, July 25, 1999, Megan Harlan, review of The Lazarus Rumba, p. 16.
Publishers Weekly, May 31, 1999, review of The Lazarus Rumba, p. 66.M
Sarah Lawrence College Web site,http://www.slc.edu/ (March 27, 2006), brief biography of Mestre.