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Monday, August 5, 2013

"Island of the White Rose" by R. Ira Harris~Novel of Cuba's Revolution


  This tale, set amid the Castro revolution in Cuba, is one of adventure and intrigue, of armed struggle and forbidden love, as the Batista dictatorship is overthrown. It also is a story of conscience and idealism succumbing to reality and disillusionment. Father Pedro Villanueva, 34, son of an upper-middle class Havana family, is initially non-political, and more at ease sailing at the elite Havana Yacht Club than performing his priestly duties. Still, he chafes at his church’s silence amid the Batista regime’s brutality. He chafes also at the life imposed on him by his priestly vows of celibacy. To free a parishioner’s son from La Cabana prison, he and his brother Alberto bribe guards at the prison. The prisoner is released, but Pedro’s brother is killed during the handover. Pedro joins with the underground to support the Fidelistas fighting in the Sierra Maestra mountains.

One of the women who helps lead him down that path is the sexy Dolores Barre, leader of an underground Havanacell and future wife of one of Castro's lieutenants. Another who will affect his life is Maria Guerra, a disaffected government official. Dolores and Maria persuade Pedro first to obtain medicines for the rebels, later to smuggle arms to them aboard his family’s 40-foot sloop, The White Rose (named after a poem by Jose Marti, a 19th Century national hero, in which the white rose symbolizes Cuba and its brightest aspirations). As Pedro’s involvement with the revolution grows, taking him into the mountains, gun in hand, his priestly ethics are abandoned. His celibacy vows also are left behind. After Batista flees the country and Castro’s forces take power, Pedro—his core beliefs sacrificed—sees people close to him slowly realize they have fought a right-wing dictatorship only to witness a dictatorship of the left replace it. Some now are demonized as counterrevolutionaries. The White Rose, with Pedro at the helm, secretly slips off on a new mission.    


Publisher:  Bridgeworks

About the Publisher:   Bridge Works is a 21-year-old independent publisher that has discovered and first published such successful authors as Tom Perrotta (whose subsequent Election and later Little Children were bestsellers and were made into hit feature films); Alan Isler (whose The Prince of West End Avenue won the National Jewish Book Award and was runner-up for the National Book Critics Circle’s fiction award); Lorna Landvik; and Claire Cook (whose subsequent Must Love Dogs was made into a feature film). Bridge Works titles, in addition to the above Alan Isler recognition, have won Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award for best mystery; have been finalists for the Barnes & Noble annual Discover Great New Writers Award and ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award; and have been among The New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Bridge Works’ titles are distributed to the trade by National Book Network. For more information, visit:   www.BridgeWorksBooks.com

Pages:  288
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Purchase: Island of the White Rose




R. Ira Harris, an attorney who lives in Sacramento, California, has spent his adult lifetime closely associated with the study of the struggles of the Cuban people. Visit the author’s blog at:  www.islandofthewhiteroseblog.com or website at: www.islandofthewhiterose.com


The Bookish Libraria is delighted to bring you this guest post from our distinguished visitor R. Ira Harris. We have never had an author so close to a struggle for independence in a nation which so impacts the United States.  Please help me welcome him, and enjoy this talk:

Thanks, Deb, for asking for this guest post. I’m honored to be a guest contributor to your blog, but remembering my grandmother’s advice that visitors, like fish, start to stink after three days, I’ll keep it short.


I’ve wanted to be a writer as far back as college (1966-70 NYU). As an English lit major, the university would not allow creative writing to count toward my degree, so I never took it. I learned to analyze prose and poetry, but never had to create a story and deal with the dreaded blank page.


Upon graduation, I discovered that a degree in English was not a safe passage, and that if I was to earn a living, I needed some marketable skills. Graduate work for an MBA and law degree took me on a path far away from creative writing, but in an odd way, legal work is a form of storytelling, although done within the narrow and stifling constraints of the rules of evidence and court protocol.


Writing Island of the White Rose freed me of those limitations, and, at first, was like sailing a sloop through a narrow harbor and out to sea. Once past the breakwater, I could go anywhere, with only my imagination to limit me. And, like any voyage in strange waters, writing this tale and finding a publisher who would buy it led to uncharted danger—the editor’s pencil. I learned that much of my attention to interesting sideline stories and points of view interfered with the action of the story. As my novel’s main character, Pedro, exclaims when he joins the Cuban revolution, “Action’s the ticket.” My knowledgeable editor at Bridge Works Publishing, Barbara Phillips, wielded a sharp scalpel, and my manuscript was crafted into Island of the White Rose. It was both exhausting and wonderful working with her, my self-described “stern auntie.”


Island was inspired by the story of the mother of a college sweetheart with whom, thanks to Facebook, I reunited after 42 years since we broke up. She is my muse. Her mother was a high official of the Batista government who led a double life in the underground supporting Fidel Castro. I think the spirit of Island is captured in the trailer, which I invite your readers to view. It’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6AAJc1hpuY and to learn about modern goings on in Cuba on my blog, at http://www.islandofthewhiteroseblog.com.


I am now working on a sequel to Island that will take the story through the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. I am also working on a rewrite of another novel, Holy Man, about a charlatan Sikh holy man who defrauds a disciple of a half-million dollars, seduces his wife and the stress of civil litigation that the hero must endure to bring his priest to justice. I’ve travelled to all the continents but Antartica, and while wanderlust still courses through my veins, happiness now is the time at my desk or at a table in a quiet coffee shop, to see where a story may take me next.


R. Ira Harris 
Thanks for this informative visit, and we look forward not only to reading "Island of the White Rose" but to the sequel about the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs!

Early Praise

“A gripping story of love, faith, betrayal and revolution set in the flavors and sounds of 1950’s Cuba.”
--Dr. Modesto A. Maidique, President Emeritus, Florida International University
“A good page turner…. Island of the White Rose is a novel that depicts the true story of many Cuban youths who risked their lives to oust a brutal dictatorship only to find that they had brought into power a ruthless totalitarian regime and paid dearly for it.”
--Guillermo Martinez, syndicated columnist, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and co-editor of Cubans: An Epic Journey
“I've read a lot of Cuban history and been there four times as a journalist. This book captures so well the pain and tragedy of the revolution...the loves and the lives lost then, and now. ”
--David Lawrence Jr., retired Miami Herald publisher and president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation








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