Connecting Latinas All Over the World through Literature

January 2015 Teleconference: Alina García-Lapuerta, Diann M. Kissell

Alina García-Lapuerta | Diann M. Kissell

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Read More Outside Links: Book Author Publisher

January 2015 Book of the Month

La Belle Créole | Alina García-Lapuerta

La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris

Chicago Review Press
By Alina García-Lapuerta
Published by Chicago Review Press
ISBN-13: 978-1613745366

Known for her beauty and angelic voice, Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, la Belle Créole, was a Cuban-born star of nineteenth-century Parisian society. She befriended aristocrats and artists alike, including Balzac, Baron de Rothschild, Rossini, and the opera diva La Malibran.

A daughter of the creole aristocracy, Mercedes led a tumultuous life, leaving her native Havana as a teenager to join her mother in the heart of Madrid’s elite society. As Napoleon swept Spain into the Peninsular War, Mercedes’ family remained at the center of the storm, and her marriage to French general Christophe-Antoine Merlin tied her fortunes to France. Arriving in Paris in the aftermath of the French defeat, she re-created her life, ultimately hosting the city’s premier musical salon.

Acknowledged as one of the greatest amateur sopranos of her day, she nurtured artistic careers and daringly paved the way for well-born singers to publicly perform in lavish philanthropic concerts. Beyond her musical renown, Mercedes achieved fame as a writer. Her memoirs and travel writings introduced European audiences to nineteenth-century Cuban society and contributed to the debate over slavery. Scholars still quote her descriptions of Havana life and recognize her as Cuba’s earliest female author.

Mercedes epitomized an unusually modern life, straddling cultures and celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic. Her memoirs, travel writings, and very personal correspondence serve as the basis for this first-ever English-language account of the passionate and adventuresome Belle Créole.


January 2015 Additional Conversation

A Turquoise Life | Diann M. Kissell with Kathy Bird

A Turquoise Life: One Woman’s Triumphant Journey

Dog Ear Publishing
By Diann M. Kissell (with Kathy Bird)
Published by Dog Ear Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1457529023

Facing the imminent exposure of an eight-year incestuous relationship with his thirteen-year-old daughter Diann, Luis murders his pregnant wife and three of his ten children. Four years later he is executed in the Colorado gas chamber; the last execution of its kind in the United States. Her father’s crimes and punishment provide the backdrop for A Turquoise Life, Diann’s story of healing and redemption. It chronicles a journey from traumatized little girl to strong, whole, independent woman and offers hope to all victims of abuse.

Diann leads a double life. On the surface she’s a happy, well-behaved Latina Catholic who honors her father. In her hidden life with Dad she views herself as a weak, bad, mortal sinner. Silence is safety until she can’t stand it anymore. When she talks, it costs her mom and three of her siblings their lives. She believes the murders are her fault; she talked, they died. Her father’s abuse affects every part of her life; her good side fakes being perfect while her bad side, heavy with shame and self-loathing, makes destructive decisions.

For more than a decade Diann keeps silent about her history until the media again invades her life with Gary Gilmore’s execution; the first in the country since her dad’s death. Determined her children won’t suffer because of her past, she seeks help and a new way of living. She embarks on a healing journey of therapy, redefinition of her spiritual beliefs, self-help books, and workshops on anger and forgiveness.

After being a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show (September 2, 1987), Diann realizes talking about abuse can help her as well as other victims. By speaking out, she begins to break her father’s legacy of shame and give meaning to her life. Immediately after the show, Oprah calls and offers to buy Diann’s story. Diann declines the generous offer, knowing she’s in the middle of healing from the far-reaching effects of her father’s crimes; this portion of her story isn’t finished. Six months after her Oprah appearance, she leaves both her victim role and abusive marriage.

In the process of divorcing herself from her husband and dad, she discovers she no longer leads a double life. She is now healthy enough to attract a relationship she deserves. She finds and marries Fred, her prince charming. Diann’s memoir is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. By telling this color rich story- she honors her healing. Today Diann Christine M. Kissell lives a turquoise life and is ready to tell her story to the world.


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