By Erica Schmidt, FCN regional staff
A local woman has recently published a historical fiction book based on her experience of growing up in Cuba under a repressive government.
Local resident Lilli Meier was born in Havana, Cuba, and lived there until she was 11 and a half, from 1949 to 1961. And with the help of her husband, Lou, she has recently finished writing and published a book, “Killing My Cuba,” based on her own and her family’s experience during that time.
Meier and her family came to Miami, Fla., from Cuba in 1961 and from there ended up living in Memphis,Tenn., where she met her husband. The couple lived in Atlanta for quite awhile while Lou was in the Air Force and Lilli raised their two children. Meier, who now lives in north Forsyth and is an active member of a Dawsonville book club, said that she always wanted to return to Cuba to visit where she had grown up.
“As the years went by, I was raising a family and lived in Atlanta but I thought that by the time I was 40 I could return back to a free Cuba,” Meier said. “Years went by and I turned 50 and I did get to go back in my 50s, but I went back to a country that was practically destroyed.”
Meier says that in returning to her hometown, she was able to visit the house and neighborhood where she had spent her childhood.
“Everything was torn down; the communists leave the real pretty things up and show you just those things,” Meier said. “But it was a very surreal experience for me and very touching to be able to walk inside my home.”
Meier said that after returning to visit Cuba, she wanted to write a book as a way to remember past events.
“I really did it because I felt like after living here in the U.S. for so many years, I didn’t want to forget those memories of Cuba,” Meier said. “I had a lot that I remembered; we actually escaped the country and had to leave.”
“Killing My Cuba” is a historical fiction novel based on Meier’s own memories and those of her father.
“I had conversations with my father later on growing up, he was a doctor in Havana so my husband who is a radiologist helped me to write some of the medical parts of the book,” Meier said. “But the fiction part of the novel is for the sake of entertainment, and the historical part is factual based on my growing up there and my father’s memories.”
Meier said that the other reason she decided to write the book was due to the Bookies, a Dawsonville book club that she is a part of.
“I joined Bookies and a couple years ago [and] they picked a couple of books by Cuban authors,” Meier said. “I started reading the stories by these other Cuban authors and I got very excited about wanting to write my own story.”
It took Meier and her husband two and a half years to finish writing “Killing My Cuba,” and according to Meier the writing process was therapeutic for her.
“It brought me a certain amount of remembering both the sad memories and the fond memories,” Meier said. “If you ask people what they remember about their first 10 or 11 years a lot of people would say it was nothing exciting, but I had a really exciting childhood.”
Meier said that she included some of her own pictures in her book as well to add visuals to the descriptions and stories inside.
One of Meier’s main goals now that her book is finished is to tell members of the next generation her story.
“I want to reach the young generation with this too, because this happened and the unfortunate thing is that the communist regime is still pretty much in force down there,” Meier said. “A lot of people will say ‘I’ve been on cruises and I’ve seen Havana’ but you haven’t seen what I’ve seen; I’ve seen some things that would just break your heart.”
Meier will be presenting her book to her fellow book club members at the Bowen Art Center on Aug. 18.
“We’ve been meeting over Zoom, but we’re finally going to have a meeting in person so I can present my book to the rest of the club,” Meier said. “I’ve met some of the most wonderful people in Bookies; I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this book club.”
“Killing My Cuba” is currently available to order in paperback form, and Meier and her husband are in the process of getting a Kindle e-book version of their book out and available as well.
For more information on Meier’s book, visit www.killingmycuba.com.