Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Ana Menendez

Ana Menendez edit


Ana Menendez is an American author whom was born in the state of California in 1970. Ana Menendez' parents fled the country known as Cuba because of complications of the "way of life" and to better their children, for when they decided to have. Just like most of Latin parents did, they taught their children to speak Spanish first. Ana's parents had a very unique reason for that, they believed that they would return back to the country that they fled which happened to be, Cuba. Before being a published Author for her most known book, In Cuba I was a German Shepherd she was a journalist. Ana Menendez was born in California, but moved to Florida with her family to begin her teenage years and spend high school in Miami.

Menendez attended high school in Miami, where she began to enjoy her future craft, which happened to be writing. Ana became infatuated with writing that she eventually took on journalism in college, in Florida International University. Ana graduated from FIU in 1992 with a bachelors of arts. Ana Menendez began her journalism career, professionally in 1991 for the Miami Herald, a newspaper in Miami, FL. After several years of working for the Miami Herald and focusing on one specific area known as Little Havana, Ana left and pursued her career in literature. Ana enrolled in a creative writing program in New York University (NYU) and began working for the highly popular newspaper, The New York Times. After spending time at NYU and eventually graduating in 2001, Ana's most known work titled "In Cuba I was a German Shepherd", a series of short stories was published. The short stories compiled into one book gained attention and success, leading Menendez to win multiple awards for her piece (NY Times Book Of The Year, Pushcart Prize). After getting her feet wet in literature, Ana went back to the Miami Herald in the year 2005 and began working on new material. Menendez eventually ended up publishing Loving Che which was her first novel, The Last War, and Adios, Happy Homeland!, which was another series of short stories compiled into one book. After returning for 3 years at the Miami Herald, Ana Menendez left and accepted a fulbright grant, allowing her to teach at the American University in Cairo, where she currently teaches.

Analysis Of Text: edit

In the book known as In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd by Ana Menendez, it demonstrated what it was like for Cuban exiles to start a new life, and that began in Miami. Although Ana herself did not flee Cuba, her parents did so this collection of short stories could have some truth behind her parents lives although the piece is labeled as fiction. In the short stories there were four main characters, Maximo, Raul, Carlos, and Antonio. Living in Miami, Menendez must've captured ideas of how to write these short stories because throughout the book, the four are sitting around a table while telling stories that most Cuban-Americans can relate to. Three out of the four men were Cuban-Americans, while Carlos was from the Dominican Republic, but he could always relate to something that was being said by the other three.

The main characters have a lot in common and a piece of this text that makes you analyze the story a lot more, larger than anything is the way Maximo examined the dominoes. Maximo is described to look at the dominoes the way an artist would look at his work while the dominoes were laid flat on the table. It said "the pieces choreographed a fresh dance of gratitude every night." "The plain smooth face of the blank, like a newborn unetched by the world to come." It could even be told that Maximo looks at the dominoes pieces as if they were people. The more black dots that they had meant the older they were or the more experience in life that they had over the ones with less black dots.

The main theme of the short stories seems to be overcoming adversities, like most Cubans had to overcome. Although the stories are being told from a table, the thought of what Cubans go to just to get to America is tough to think about. Mentions of Castro are thrown around the book, because you can not really speak about Cuba and not mention the man responsible for holding Cubans "hostage." The book was published in 2001 after Ana Menendez graduated from NYU. Menendez took her views and experiences from Miami and enrolled into a creative writing program where she learned, eventually leading her to create the book and publish it. The book ended up winning one major award in the fiction category.

Literary Criticism: edit

In an interview by Melissa Scholes Young, she gets very indepth with Ana as she discusses the style of expressing thoughts and ideas through text in the form that she used in In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd. Melissa Young explains the enjoyment she had reading the book and explains how difficult it is to write fiction and link mulitple stories together the way that she did. Melissa stated that she found the stories to be fictional in a sense because of the background information that she had on her. Knowing that Ana was a Cuban-American, Melissa could tell that she linked the stories, not to her experience but most likely to her parents and she was correct as Ana said "It was a fictional treatment of what I had seen in my own community. My mother was forever running into someone who knew someone who knew someone with whom she went to school in Cuba. It seemed to me as a child that all Cubans knew each other."

Throughout the interview, Melissa Young talks about how she feels like there is a thematic theme going on in all three of Ana's pieces of work as to the ending of all them are really similar. Melissa mentions in a confused way that she does not understand how the book is labeled as fiction when there is in fact truth behind the stories that are being told. The term "Just because it never happened doesn't mean it's isn't true" was said during the interview, and like Melissa states, most readers that know of Ana Menendez' background will be slightly confused as to why the piece of her work is labeled fiction. Melissa appreciated knowing that the stories were like a lens for her to see what her mother sees because most Latin immigrants deal with similar situations in a sense that they always connect with someone in another country that is from the same city or town that they are from, and that is when the stories spark.

Comparison to other Latino/Latina authors: edit

Latina Author (Poet) Lorna Dee Cervantes has many things in common with Ana Menendez. In Lorna's famous and most known poem Refugee Ship you can see a lot of Ana's thoughts and ideas for writing In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd. Lorna's poem discusses immigrants fleeing a war torn country to get to a better life, a refuge. The setting between the two is not really similar but the backgrounds and theme is key that locks both together. Like Ana, Lorna is also the daughter of immigrant parents who fled their motherland country to start a better life, for their child. Both of these authors go in depth through their relatives eyes as they talk about their countries that will make you think that they were born and lived there through the most difficult times.

Lorna Dee Cervantes admits to using her grandmas eyes as the vision for the telling of her poem. Lorna mentioned that her grandma raised her without language meaning that when she arrived to her family's destination, she could not speak what they spoke. Same goes for Ana, she was only taught Spanish because her parents believed there was a chance that they might return to their home in Cuba. The theme of both artists are spot on together but from different perspectives as Lorna is speaking through her while Ana is using the ideas of her parents life to design a visual so you can envision what Cuba was like.

Place in Latin Literature: edit

Although Ana Menendez wrote some very notable stories throughout her life, her ranking in Latin literature is not as high as others. Menendez has not released enough work to have her at an elite level, but her style of writing is what catches most readers attention. The way Ana tells stories through other people is a skill that she most definitely has mastered. Ana Menendez has written about some of the darkest times that a Latino/Latina can go through and she makes you feel every single word that she writes. Menendez entered late into the literature world (2001 first published book) and that is what holds her back from breaking grounds as an author. With more stories like In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd, Ana is on pace to be remembered as one of the most skilled Latina story tellers of this generation.

Academic Sources: edit

  1. Menendez, Ana, In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd. NY, 2001
  2. Santi, Ana Menendez Interview, Alexis, 2006. Retrieved from:
  3. Bahadur, Gaiutra, Sleeping With The Enemy, The New York Times, June 24th, 2009. Retrieved from:
  4. Cheuse, Alan, Ana Menendez, Retrieved from:
  5. Birnbaum, Robert, Ana Menendez Interview, Feb, 18th, 2004. The Morning News. Retrieved from:

Useful Links: edit