A beautifully observed collection of short stories, Breathe takes the reader beyond the artificial glamour of guidebook Cuba to paint a real and uncompromising portrait of modern-day Cuba.
Segal captures the joy, discontent, love and everyday dreams that lie beneath the facade of this beautiful and complex country.
With sparse and revealing prose, Breathe vividly portrays a series of encounters between Cubans and tourists, deftly exposing cross-cultural tensions and inequalities. The stories give voice to the marginalised, and will resonate with any reader who feels their 'difference' - whether through religion, culture or colour.
Written from the perspective of an outsider, Breathe is remarkable for its insight into everyday life in Cuba, and draws on the time that the author spent living in a rural community in the remote West of the island.
This is Cuba as you have never seen it before.
Welcome to my spot on the Blog Tour for Breathe : stories from Cuba by Leila Segal, published by Flipped Eye Publishing in paperback on 21 January 2016.
Breathe : short stories from Cuba is an elegantly written collection of nine short stories, told from the perspective of tourists and outsiders about Cuba and its people. Like most people, when I think of Cuba, I imagine Havana with its colourful buildings and ancient cars, I think of cigars and I remember Castro. My impressions of Cuba have been formed by what I've seen via the media. Leila Segal's story collection gives the reader the gift of seeing life in this vibrant, yet troubled country from the inside.
The stories are set between 2000 and 2004, not long before the the end of Castro's long reign as President, and its people are poverty stricken and food is short. Despite these hardships, it is clear from Segal's writing that there is joy and warmth and love to be found amongst the hardships.
The writing is clear and direct, but has a poetic quality and each story is like a tiny painting, giving a glimpse into the often hidden and misunderstood lives led by the Cubans.
I often struggle to contact with short stories, usually preferring a full-length novel that enables me to get to know the characters and the locations in more detail, yet I didn't feel that way about this collection at all. These stories, whilst short, are full of detail that instantly make the reader feel at home, and each one is a satisfying peek into places that are rarely written about.
Leila Segal's passion for this intriguing country shines through in her writing, her intimate knowledge of the West of the island is obvious, and she effortlessly packages up the smells and the sounds, and the heat and throw them out to be caught by her readers.
I enjoyed reading this collection, I enjoyed getting to know more about the hidden parts of Cuba, the collection is beautifully written, informing and satisfying.
My thanks to Eve from Midas PR who invited me to take part in the this Blog Tour and who sent my copy for review
Born in London, of Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian descent, Leila trained as a barrister before working in journalism for several years, becoming features editor of Jewish News and a writer for the Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Independent.
In 2008, Leila lived in the Israeli city of Jaffa, where she led the Jaffa Photography Project, with Arab-Jewish collective Sedaka Reut, using word and image to bring together Arab and Jewish teenagers in workshops exploring their relationship to each other and to the land they both call home.
Leila founded and directs Voice of Freedom, an organisation that works with formerly trafficked women. Voice of Freedom enables women who have escaped their captors, and sometimes given evidence against them, to use text and photography to talk about their lives.
Breathe : stories from Cuba is her debut collection for which she received a £5000 grant from the Arts Council England.
She does regular readings in London.
To find out more about Leila Segal and her work, visit www.leilasegal.com
Follow her on Twitter @leilasegal
Flipped Eye Publishing: Flipped Eye engages audiences that may not otherwise have contact with the arts. It showcases ethnic minority voices - and targets those communities as it promotes the work. It publishes both poetry and short story collections.
Authors published by Flipped Eye include the Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, winner of the African Poetry Prize in 2013 and the first Young Poet Laureate for London, and Inua Ellams, Nigerian poet and playwright, whose one-man play Black T-Shirt Collection played at the National Theatre
Follow Flipped Eye Publishing on Twitter @flippedeye