The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

Chanel Cleeton | Cuba

In the last few years of the 19th century, the Cuban people were in a dire situation with Spanish colonization. Cuban revolutionaries wanted independence but were too poorly equipped to force out the Spanish, while the countryside was being destroyed by fire and farmers and their families were forced into reconcentration camps in the cities.

At the heart of this book are three women: Evangelina Cisneros—a teenager living in a Cuban prison due to her father’s ties to the revolutionaries, Grace Harrington—an American female journalist working for The Journal newspaper in New York, and Marina Sandoval—the wife of a Cuban revolutionary who becomes a spy passing notes to revolutionary allies while living in a reconcentration camp.

Cleeton plunges her readers into high-class American society and the famous feud between William Randolf Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, newspapers owners fighting for supremacy in the age of “yellow journalism.” The plight of the Cuban people, and specifically that of Evangelina, causes Hearst to spearhead a daring rescue attempt, for the purpose of increasing his readership, making her the face of the persecuted in Cuba. The lives of these three women converge when America enters the war with Cuba and Spain, where each woman chooses to do their part in bringing about awareness to the conditions of women and children in Cuba.

Cleeton is a master of weaving the historical with the fictional in her novels. Here she focuses on the generation of the great-grandparents of her characters in Next Year in Havana, infusing it with the political and social happenings in American society that Hearst manipulates to try to force the actions of American politicians.ily cycle that perpetuates violence against women while others look on and think it’s normal.

“Hearst is pressing for our stories to lead the public to the decision that war is inevitable, demanding we report on the news and shape it in a way I’m not entirely comfortable with, even if the urgency of the situation demands action.”

-Chanel Cleeton

First Published: 2021
Instagram: @chanelcleeton

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