May 16, 2023
Today I talked to Aaron Hamburger about his new novel Hotel Cuba (Harper Perennial, 2023).
Two sisters fleeing the horror of the Soviet Revolution and aftermath of WW1 are disappointed when American policy prevents them from joining their older sister in New York. Older, practical sister Pearl knows they must leave the old world to survive and buys tickets to Cuba. Frieda, the younger sister, immediately starts complaining and longs to join her boyfriend from home who is now in Detroit. Havana is filled with rich Americans escaping Prohibition and poor Cubans selling fun, pleasure, and booze, but Pearl and Frieda are sheltered, penniless Jewish girls. After Frieda manages to get off the island, Pearl, who raised her baby sister starting at age nine, does whatever she has to do to escape “Hotel Cuba.”
Aaron Hamburger is the author of a story collection titled THE VIEW FROM STALIN’S HEAD which was awarded the Rome Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and nominated for a Violet Quill Award. He has also written three novels: FAITH FOR BEGINNERS, nominated for a Lambda Literary Award, NIRVANA IS HERE, winner of a Bronze Medal from the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Book Awards, and HOTEL CUBA, published by Harper Perennial in 2023. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review, Subtropics, Crazyhorse, Boulevard, Poets & Writers, Tablet, O, the Oprah Magazine, Out, The Massachusetts Review, The Bennington Review, Nerve, Time Out, Details, and The Forward. He has also won fellowships from Yaddo, Djerassi, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation as well as first prize in the Dornstein Contest for Young Jewish Writers, and his short fiction and creative non-fiction have received special mentions in the Pushcart Prizes. Hamburger has taught creative writing at Columbia University, George Washington University, New York University, Brooklyn College, and the Stonecoast MFA Program. In addition to writing and reading, he is an avid tennis player and baker. He actually has a babka recipe published in a new children's book by Leslea Newman. Also, every year he throws a holiday cookie blowout and bakes thousands of cookies for family and friends.