Book Fair Bonanza

Miami’s got the literary goods

"It's a false dichotomy, that you can't have both," says the former music editor for SF Weekly and current editorial director for Moli.com. "I didn't know how to fit a baby on the hip of the image I had created, but now I do."

Her memoir chronicles her trajectory, from the Midwest (where she was a tomboy who "would have taken a bullet" for Michael Jackson), to the punked-out bohemian whirlwind of the East Village, to the Upper Peninsula, where, while "drowning worms," she stumbled upon a husband and two step-daughters before landing in Miami, with a son.

While McDonnell chats with New Times, four-year-old Cole is Scotch-taping her office door closed so no one can bother his mom while she is working. The author, who still refuses to shave her armpits, has some strong opinions about women. For instance, Miami's own Jacki-O: "She's rapped about a lot of the same things Rick Ross later rapped about. But I think people wrote her off unfairly, because she's a woman and wrote a song about nookie. So that's all people can associate her with. Once a woman sexualizes herself, there's not so many who can go back."

And what of Miami women in general? "I'm really appalled sometimes dealing with the whole princess thing," she says. "I feel the most uncomfortable, the most conspicuous, in that environment." Then there are the kinds of women who turned out for her most recent reading at Books & Books.

"They seem like the kind of moms that are women like me. We lived the life and now we're in the next chapter of it. We're all still doing interesting things. Just because you have a baby screaming around doesn't mean you can't have a guitar screaming as well."


For poet Adrian Castro, fish are emblematic of the waves of migration that have navigated history to our shores. "Fish are witnesses that see everything," he muses in Wise Fish: Tales in 6/8 Time, "even when dead, they never close their eyes."

The Miami-based artist of Cuban and Dominican descent is also a practicing Ifa priest. His poems fluidly mix Spanish, English, and Yoruban phrases in a rhythmic patois in which the cross-fertilization of cultures, myth, and rituals bound like the beat of ancestral drums.

"Most of the migration that occurred in the Caribbean and the Americas has come through the ocean," he says. "My father came here in a cargo boat from Regla in 1954. Camarioca, Mariel, los balseros — think of all those people that have risked dangerous trips across water here. For me, the fish has become the wise witness to all their journeys."

Castro's poems thrum with the pulse of our city, describing how "mulattos, mestizos, black and white, everyone here fuses their voices together, regardless how separated, into a distinct sound," he observes.

The pungent smell of cafecitos and tabacos waft enticingly from "Fishing at the Crossroads," a poem that conjures the seamier side of Calle Ocho during its hooker and rent-by-the-hour hot-sheet-motel days. Of Little Havana's historic main artery, Castro recites these verses: "If we begin anywhere, it would be east to west, on Calle Ocho putas parade with perennial confidence, open for late lunch."

Reflecting on his source of inspiration, Castro says, chuckling, "I always found it ironic how all those hos would be hanging around in broad daylight in front of that old cemetery on SW 32nd Avenue," before clicking off.

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