Amelia Montes reviews Mockingbird on La Bloga

“Theft and reclaiming what has been lost is a running theme in Cristina Garcia’s King of Cuba and Julie Trimingham’s Mockingbird

In Mockingbird by Julie Trimingham, a white woman named Mia follows her academic lover to Cuba since she hasn’t been able to find acting jobs back in the states.  What we have here is a lush, beautifully descriptive photomontage, or filmic narrative of Cuban scenery:  the malecón, their trip to Trinidad, their living quarters in Miramar: “a manicured neighborhood of twentieth-century villas that are now embassies and corporate headquarters.  Ours was a low-slung concrete building that clung, mollusk-like, to the edge of the harbor.  The shore is craggy, and they’ve built a wall along it, straight up from the rocks, a littoral girding.  We had a corner room up top, with windows that gave onto the water.”  Mia is unhappy.  She has been waiting for a commitment from Alex, a conventional proposal, which, at this point, seems impossible. Instead, what appears is a baby left in a car and Mia’s theft of a Cuban child.  Or is it theft?

This is not as much about Cuba as it is about the outsider/the white privileged individual entering a Latin American country and “taking over” in an effort to achieve a sense of self.  The lush prose accentuates all that is lacking in Mia. We follow her every foible which allows the reader to understand her motivations (as we do with Goyo and Fidel in King of Cuba).  Trimingham has worked for a number of years as a filmmaker, and in the realm of fiction, her work in film has probably helped her develop such razor sharp, beautiful descriptive scenes.  It’s interesting to read King of Cuba and Mockingbird back-to-back.  García’s novel is internally Cuban (with bombastic characters) while Trimingham’s is external, giving us much more of the Havana/Trinidad scenery as well as the ineptitude of the white Anglo foreigner (Mia) on an island she seems destined never to understand.”

Amelia Montes is a writer and professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She is also the Director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies there. I am thankful to have her perspective on and review of Mockingbird!

La Bloga is a blog written by Latina and Latino writers, and dedicated to  relevant literature and issues.

Liar. Cheater. Thief.

That’s what Mia, the protagonist of Mockingbird, is. Whether or not she’s justified in lying, cheating and stealing is up to you.  I’ve been fascinated to hear responses from readers: some see a rich white lady going down to a poor, brown country and simply taking what she wants; others see a necessary act of love, of salvation. An editor pointed out that the word “gray” was frequently used in the text. I’d always thought the story was full of color, as it takes place in Havana.  Reading through, though, I saw that the editor was right: there’s gray all over the place. The world is neither black nor white, and Mia’s actions aim straight for the middle of the spectrum. I’m curious what you think, those who have read the book: is Mia’s action moral? amoral? immoral?

Moral Power for Climate Action


I was so pleased and honored to speak at the Whidbey Institute’s first climate conference. Other speakers included here, in the Institute’s brief and compelling video, are KC Golden of Climate Solutions, Anna Fahey of Sightline Institute and Derek Hoshiko of Yes! Magazine.

“The climate crisis is not an environmental problem. It is a human problem. Humans have caused it and only humans can act to avert catastrophe. Yet many of us continue to live as if this crisis isn’t happening. Even those who accept the science, and care a lot. The time has come to go beyond the science, to a place of heart. The time has come to tap our deepest sources of moral courage and commitment.”

To learn more about the Climate Collaborative, visit

Gracias y abrazos

Photo: Julie Trimingham: Finally!

For  beautifully hosted Mockingbird events & launches, thank you to the Miami Book Fair International, Books & Books, Mitchell Kaplan; Village Books in Fairhaven, Chuck & Dee Robinson; The People’s Co-op Bookstore in Vancouver; TYPE Books in Toronto; Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, Janis Segress; Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland; and the Island Library on Lummi Island. Mockingbird is now, finally, widely available through your local, independent bookseller as well as the usual online suspects. Thank you to author Rob Yardumian of the recently released novel The Sound of Songs Across the Water, for this photo from Powell’s Bookstore in Portland!

Miami Book Fair International 2013

I am thrilled and honored to be presenting alongside Ruth Behar and Cristina Garcia at this year’s Miami Book Fair International.  #MBFI3030 @MiamiBookFair.

From the program:

Ruth BeharCristina GarciaJulie  Trimingham


Sunday, Nov. 24, 2:30 p.m., Room 8302 (Building 8, 3rd Floor)

Traveling Heavy: A Memoir in Between Journeys (Duke University Press; $23.95) seeks to answer the question “Why do we leave home to find home?”  Ruth Behar portrays her life as an immigrant child and later, as an adult woman who loves to travel but is terrified of boarding a plane.  “. . . her exquisite stories leave me astonished, amused, … and forever transformed”–Sandra Cisneros.  Born in Havana, Behar is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan and the author of several books, including An Island Called Home:  Returning to Jewish Cuba; and Translated Woman:  Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story.

In Cristina Garcia’s novel King of Cuba (Scribner; $26.00), a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an aging Miami exile cling obsessively to power. “. . . a profane, rollicking sendup of a dictator on his deathbed.” —Village Voice.  Garcia, whose work has been translated into fourteen languages, is the author of six novels, including the National Book Award finalist Dreaming in Cuban and The Lady Matador’s Hotel.

Julie Trimingham’s debut novel, Mockingbird (MP Publishing; $13.95), combines Cuba, music, hurricanes, love, and theft.  The cry of an abandoned baby on the outskirts of an old Cuban city attracts the attention of a wandering tourist — and then cracks her life wide open. Trimingham’s film work has screened at festivals and been broadcast internationally, and has won or been nominated for a number of awards.

Aritha van Herk on Mockingbird

“Julie Trimingham’s Mockingbird is a novel teeming with yearning, with the indescribable smells and tastes of Cuban ardor. This tale of passion and its smudged fate, its undeniable allure, intensifies with each improvised move, so that readers have to gasp for breath, yet cannot help but follow this impossible seduction, and the center of gravity that shapes the beauty known as longing.”

Aritha van Herk is an award winning Canadian novelist whose work has been acclaimed throughout North America and Europe. Her  books include JudithThe Tent PegNo Fixed Address: An Amorous JourneyPlaces Far From EllesmereRestlessnessIn Visible Ink and A Frozen Tongue. Her most recent expedition into time and words is Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta.

Mockingbird Launches & Presentations

BELLINGHAM:  Thursday, 25 JULY 2013, 7pm at Village Books in Fairhaven

PORTLAND: Thursday, 24 OCTOBER, 7pm  at Annie Bloom’s Books

SEATTLE: Thursday, 7 NOVEMBER, 7pm at Queen Anne Book Company

TORONTO: Tuesday, 19 NOVEMBER, 7pm at Type Books on Queen Street West

MIAMI: Sunday, 24 NOVEMBER, 2:30pm at the Miami Book Fair International

• presenting with Cristina Garcia of “King of Cuba” and Ruth Behar of “Traveling Heavy: A Memoir In Between Places”

VANCOUVER: Thursday, 5 December, 7pm at People’s Co-Op Bookstore

LUMMI ISLAND: Sunday, 8 December, 3:30pm at the Island Public Library


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