Anyone who knows about Cuban history in depth can tell you there could not have been a successful Cuban Revolution without the thoroughly admirable Celia Sánchez, Fidel Castro's lover, who handled the organizational aspects of the otherwise chaotic Castro brothers' uprising and, equally important, kept Fidel's monstrous ego in check. In Rosa Jordan's novel The Woman She Was (Brindle & Glass 2012) we meet Celia Cantú, a pediatrician in modern Cuba, named after Celia Sánchez, who scours the island to find her 16-year-old niece Liliana, hoping she can prevent her from turning into one more jintera (prostitute) who gets American dollars from tourists. While present-day Celia searches from popular tourist destinations to the Sierra Maestre range where Celia Sánchez and Fidel first became lovers, she herself must choose between lovers-Luis, a high-level bureaucrat in Havana or her former fiancé, Joe, who has returned from Miami. The situation is complicated by the fact that Joe and Luis are competitive brothers and the Celia feels her mind and body being 'taken over' by Celia Sánchez, the unsung heroine of the Cuban Revolution. Joe's arrival from Miami, with lots of money at his disposal, and Liliana's teenage turbulence, force the contemporary Celia to examine the discrepancy between her country's ideals and its reality. The novel succeeds exceedingly well in evoking the intricacies of everyday life in Cuba.

Rosa Jordan's adult novel Far From Botany Bay retells the historic story of Mary Broom who, at age 21, was sentenced to hang for the crime of stealing a cloak. When her sentence was commuted to transportation "upon the sea, beyond the seas,"; she was sent to Australia as one of the first European to reach that continent and reside in the prison colony known as "Botany Bay."; After two years of extreme privation and near-starvation, she escaped in 1791 and undertook a remarkable journey back to England with the help of eight men under her command.

Born on June 4, 1939 in Ropesville, Texas, Rosa Jordan is an "internationalist" who grew up in Florida and holds a B.A. degree from UCLA (University of California/Los Angeles) and an M.A. degree from the University of Guanajuato in Mexico. She moved to Rossland, B.C. in 1974. She is the author of Rossland: The First 100 Years (Lefevre/ Heritage Trust, 1996) with Derek Choukalos, and two travel books, Dangerous Places: Travels on the Edge (Pottersfield Press, 1997) and Lonely Planet Cycling Cuba (Lonely Planet, 2002) with Derek Choukalos, as well as several works of fiction.

Her first novel for children, Lost Goat Lane, became the basis for a Showtime movie called The Sweetest Gift, broadcast in 1998. Republished by Peachtree Publishers (2004) and (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005), it's an unusual story of racial prejudice in a small Florida town as it's gradually understood over the course of one summer by a white girl, Kate, from a very poor family. Kate's mother is always away at work, her older brother Justin keeps threatening to run away, and Kate's younger brother keeps straying towards the canal that's filled with alligators. Then her goat named Sugar runs off... Together with a glamourous and sophisticated black girl, Ruby, who has returned for the summer from school in New York, Kate tries to operate a fledgling candy business. Ultimately she learns to appreciate the struggles of a tightly-knit black family in the southern U.S. and how close-mindedness can be as destructive as prejudice. Lost Goat Lane was nominated for the 2006-07 Chocolate Lily Award, and was a finalist for the 2005 Silver Birch Award, and the 2005 Red Maple Award.

Jordan's follow-up volumes of juvenile fiction are The Goatnappers (F&W, 2007) and The Last Wild Place (F&W, 2009) about boy's efforts to save a family of wild panthers that has been driven out of their home in the Everglades and dangerously close to human settlement.

In Wild Spirits (2010), a novel for young adults, Jordan tells the story of a young woman who, after a bank robbery leaves her too traumatized to continue work as a teller, retreats to a farm and rescues and cares for injured and orphaned wildlife, including two baby racoons. In the process, she befriends an eccentric and lonely 14-year-old boy who ends up saving her life.

Rosa Jordan has worked for a decade as the social justice program director for Earthways Foundation, which has supported her in developing a jungle cat reserve in Ecuador's Choco rainforest and a food security program in a war-ravaged Mayan village in the Guatemala highlands.

AWARDS: LOST GOAT LANE, Silver Birch Honor Book Award.


THE WOMAN SHE WAS (novel). Brindle & Glass, 2012. 978-1-926972-46-6 $21.95

WILD SPIRITS (novel). Dundurn 2010 978-1-55488-729-3

FROM BOTANY BAY (novel). Oolichan Books, 2008. 978-088982-249-8 $22.95

THE GOATNAPPERS. Hardback: Peachtree in Atlanta, 2007. Paperback: Fitzhenry & Whiteside in Toronto, 2007.

LOST GOAT LANE. Hardback: Peachtree in Atlanta, 2004. Paperback: Fitzhenry & Whiteside in Toronto, 2005.

CYCLING CUBA. Lonely Planet, Melbourne, Australia. 2002.

DANGEROUS PLACES: TRAVELS ON THE EDGE. Pottersfield Press, Nova Scotia. 1997.

ROSSLAND: THE FIRST 100 YEARS. Lefevre/BC Heritage. 1995.

[Alan Twigg BCBW 2012] "Local History" "Kidlit" "Cuba" "Travel" "Women"