Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban: A Novel

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-05-14
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Based on the wildly popular, semi-autobiographical "Havana Honey" series published by Salon.com, Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban is a gritty portrait of one woman's determination to infiltrate modern Cuba and find the father she has never known. While on her search, privileged American Alysia Briggs ends up broke and alone in Havana. She's then forced to adopt the life of the jineteras -- educated Cuban women who supplement a desperate income by accommodating sex tourists. With an eye for detail and a razor wit, Lisa Wixon relates Alysia's journey and creates a love song to Cuba, a heartfelt tribute to a resilient people facing soul-numbing poverty in a land where M.D.s and Ph.D.s earn $18 a month, and a pair of jeans costs twice as much.


Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban
A Novel

Chapter One

I felt his hand on my bare shoulder, and it was all over.

In the oppressive August afternoon, the heat from another's touch had the chilling effect of ice on a radiator. I'd been sitting alone, in a café in Havana near the former Hilton hotel -- the one ransacked by Communists and renamed Habana Libre.

Free Havana.

The stacks of papers on my table were askew, some stained by the café con leche I chain-drink to keep my spirits up. He came at me from behind. I looked up into a tanned face and silky blue eyes framed by deep lines. Late fifties, I guessed, and not unattractive. He asked to sit. I shrugged casually. He asked if I spoke English. I nodded. Then he asked for advice -- best bars, best beaches. My advice warranted a rum over ice, or so he measured, and he offered to buy me one.

I sighed. The papers were in a fantastic mess in front of me -- evidence of my bootless investigation -- and, today, had not been revealing the clues I'd hoped for. I piled them neatly. What the hell. A rum would be nice.

He smiles. I pretend, despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, that I'm a First World girl in a First World city, being offered a friendly drink by an attractive man. That at the end of this exchange, we will trade business cards and a flirtatious smile, and in a few days I'll find a message on my cell phone and, who knows, there might be dinner and maybe a movie or a stroll and, you know, a date.

But I am not in the United States, my home, and he assumes he's not sparring with an equal, a woman of his socioeconomic rank; give or take a few rungs in either direction.

He rolls an ice cube on his tongue, momentarily losing himself to the pleasure of coolness amid the humid soup that is summertime Havana. Another drink, then another. He talks only of himself in determined pontification, and asks no questions of me. It's how he signals he's expecting to pick up the tab. This one, and the next.

I ask where he's from. "America," he says with a mixture of pride and complicity, as do all Yankees who sneak into Cuba.

"It's norteamericano," I say, playfully scolding. "We Cubans are offended that you claim the entire continent for yourselves. "He's not listening. Greedily, he takes in the size of my chest, the green jade ofmy eyes, the curve of one thigh crossed over the other.

"So," he says, leaning across the table. "I'm on the eleventh floor of the Habana Libre." He looks at me expectantly, while holding the check in his hand. "What'll it be?"

I can't blame him necessarily for the blunder. The café's bathroom mirror is not kind in its judgment; cracked and faded, it reflects my freak-show appearance. These clothes, bought new in Washington, D.C., three months ago, are frayed from wear and harsh soap and sun. I carry my things in a plastic sack -- the Cuban girl's purse -- as my leather one had been stolen months before. My body, once a healthy size eight, has shrunk to a gaunt size four. Hipbones jut out for the first time in my life. I am easily bruised. A Cuban diet does these things.

I am an American, in the sense that my passport says so, in that my university degrees and professional stints and taxes paid cement my belonging to her.

But I am Cuban. My first breath was Havana air, and my father -- as I recently discovered -- circulates the blood of Cuba in his veins. I am a Cuban-American. Like marbles in a tub, I noisily roll the moniker around in my head: Cuban-American. The hyphen is the fulcrum, the teetertotter that swings up and down. Some days I'm more heavily Cuban. On others, I weigh in more American.

But today, this day, as the man's condom-covered cock slid betweenmy thighs and his chest spread my breasts, as he heaved over me, pushingand pulling and pushing hard still, and as I ran my nails hard down his spine, a painful reaction to the pleasure I didn't expect to feel, as his face crinkled and he collapsed and rolled over and dressed and threw American scratch at my knees, and as I gathered the bills from the floor and tucked them into my bra -- isn't that what prostitutes do? -- and as I took the elevator eleven floors to the lobby and walked past the smirking guards, and as I passed through the doors into the cruel sun of the afternoon, I realized that the teeter-totter had landed with a thud.

At that moment, I was only Cuban.

Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban
A Novel
. Copyright © by Lisa Wixon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban by Lisa Wixon
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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