A Q&A with Wendy Guerra
Question: What inspired you to write Everyone Leaves?
Wendy Guerra: My parents' deaths, both in 2004, and the disappearance of a generation that is dying much sooner than its predecessors. The rediscovery of my childhood diary and the need to tell my life story through a girl in this fictitious socialist reality. I'd never known a book that spoke about life under socialism in a child's voice. In my childhood, Cuba was a place where parents had no say about whether you handled firearms at 13, or if you went to school by yourself in the countryside, or whether you aspired to university studies. Parents didn't control their children's destinies. So I decided to graft a story on this non-reality in a place that isn't what it seems, about a diaspora that every generation has had to deal with in its own way. Everyone Leaves is my exorcism from childhood and from my "inxile."
Q: Your narrator, Nieve, would be roughly the same age as you are today. Do you have anything in common?
WG: I used my own real diary as the spine for this novel, working in other stories in a kind of Aristotelian weave. I choose my own memories of what happened during that time. They were very tough times of silence and farewells. When I reread my diary, I decided to lower the heat a little bit, to be a little less judgmental than I'd been as a girl. Kids are usually sharper than any politician. They can tell what's going on and judge from a very honest perspective.
Q: Do you still keep a personal diary? If so, does it provide content for your fiction?
WG: Usually I write in my diary every day and then revise it, go over it with a more critical and literary rigor. Later, it becomes a novel.
Q: Why did you decide to write about Cuba?
WG: For me, what's important is that Cuba's story be told. Our lives--which have been lived in isolation, put on hold for 50 years, displaced from the markets, and incubated without capitalist references--are as complex as magic.
Q: What other books would you recommend to Amazon customers who are interested in Cuban life and history?
WG: No one can understand Cuba without reading Virgilio Piñera. And it's impossible to understand the sounds of Cuba without knowing the work of Nicolás Guillén.