Cuban-American author stresses the importance of fictional reading


Cuban-American author Cristina Garcia holds a book signing following her lecture about the importance of reading fiction Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 in the Kiva.

Arbrion Chambliss

In Cuban-American novelist Cristina Garcia’s opinion, reading fiction still matters. Garcia shared her thoughts on the importance of reading fiction in a world full of so many distractions during a lecture and book signing in the Kiva on Thursday evening.

A crowd of more than 35 members of the Kent State community gathered to listen to Garcia, who shared a conversation she sparked amongst her Facebook “friends” when she asked them to post in a few sentences about why reading fiction matters to them.

“Fiction lets me dream before I dream,” one of her respondents said. 

Garcia said she believes in the age of distraction where society often loses sight of the importance of reading.

“I think people’s capacity for deep reading is disappearing. I think there are a lot of distractions in the world that are competing for people’s time,” she said. “The kind of solitude and immersive experience of reading is not something that is valued as it once was.”

Garcia is author of six novels, including “The Aguero Sisters,” which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize and “Dreaming in Cuban,” finalist for the National Book Award. Garcia, who was once a reporter for Time Magazine, said she decided to turn to writing fiction later in her career.

“I think I finally got tired of constraints and having to stick to the facts,” Garcia said. “It’s so much more fun to make stuff up. I was a big reader from the time I was a little kid and I love spending part of my life in that imaginary space.”

Garcia has been nominated for a National Book Award and her work has been translated into 14 languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton University and a National Education Association grant, among others.

The lecture series was sponsored by the Office of the Provost and coordinated by the Honors College, which brings in a different speaker each semester.

“We try to bring a different kind of speaker each year, and after reading her work I knew she would be perfect. We like to introduce the university community to new ideas and to give the community the opportunity to hear new voices,” said Victoria Bocchicchio, director of academic programs for the Honors College.

Bobby McGuire, a senior Spanish translation major, said he has read several of Garcia’s novels and knew he had to come and meet her in person.

“I think that her work and her speaking has a very strong interplay between identities of part American and part Cuban,” McGuire said. “It’s like she picks you up with a thread and weaves you in through her writing,”

Lucy Merriman, a senior English major, said she thought the speaker was very interesting and was different from what she expected. Merriman has read one of Garcia’s novels and she thought it was beautiful.

“I liked how it was a defense of an argument rather than an autobiography which was the total opposite of what I expected,” Merriman said.

Garcia said reading is important way to stay sane in a world of insanity and a million distractions.

“I think to read is to give yourself another universe within a universe,” she said. “Why would you deny yourself of that?”

Contact Arbrion Chambliss at [email protected].