Adios, Happy Homeland
“Traveling Fools” is from Ana Menéndez’s second story collection, Adios, Happy Homeland! (Grove/Atlantic ). She is the author of three other books of fiction, In Cuba I Was a German Shepard, which was a 2001 New York Times Notable book of the year and whose title story won a Pushcart Prize, Loving Che (2004), and The Last War (2009) chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the top 100 books of the year. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Vogue, Bomb Magazine, and Poets & Writers.
Menendez said this about the story’s origin: I was a visiting writer at UT Austin when I wrote “Traveling Fools” in the fall of 2004. I had been riding my students hard all semester, so when the time came for me to give a public reading, I only thought it fair that I write a new story for it. I can’t remember where the idea came from, exactly, but I do remember that it was one of the few that came to me in one piece, that is I saw beginning, middle and end at once and it was only a matter of writing it all down quickly before the idea vanished.
I had always been fascinated by the true-legend of Matias Perez, a Portugese awning maker who disappeared from Havana in an aerostat in 1856. “He flew like Matias Perez” is a popular way of describing someone who vanishes without a trace. Once when I was a kid, my dad claimed we were distantly related – I think he meant it as a joke. 2004 was a nice year professionally for me and a lousy one personally. I guess I wished I could fly like Matias Perez, so I did it the best way I knew how: by writing myself some wings. It was the first of what became a series of “flying stories” that I eventually collected in Adios, Happy Homeland!
Mimi Albert, writing in The Rumpus, said of the collection: “Ana Menendez’s new collection of short fiction, Adios, Happy Homeland, weaves together stories from diverse Cuban voices that all confront the history and lived reality of their conflicted homeland.”