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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Cuba Down to the Bone

 Mayra Lazara Dole’s  Down to the Bone will be talked of everywhere this year in the GLBT blogs, but should be purchased for all high school collections. (Yes, I know I’m an elementary school librarian this year, but this book was amazing and I couldn’t resist reading it.)

Controversial? Sure. More explicit than most novels I see daily? Sure. But, an absolutely amazing book that kept me reading and avoiding all phone calls. This book can’t be pigeon-holed. It is a debut novel written in response to the questions, "Where are all the lesbian books? Where’s the racial diversity?" 

Laura is a Cuban-American girl in Miami who is caught reading a love letter from a girl while at her Catholic school. As she is ejected from the school, her mother rejects her "deviance" and throws her from the family. Laura struggles to discover herself, her place in a family, and her sexual preferences while trying to deny and change herself. Her struggle and decisions are realistic. 

Mayra Lazara Dole involves you so deeply with this character that I found myself cheering for Laura to accept her feelings and to stop trying to be what others expected. Teenage love angst, relationships with peers, dropping out of school, and trying to maintain family sibling relationships despite all obstacles. This book was an amazing debut. It is joyous, hilarious, fun and stretches you emotionally. The descriptions of Miami were lively and we were able to glimpse life in Cuba and Puerto Rico from the conversations of characters. A Refreshing and needed title. 

Count how many times I said "Amazing". Get the picture.


  1. Mayra Lazara Dole says:

    What an “amazing” review! Makes me feel like doing cartwheels! So glad you loved my book…

  2. Carmela Brown says:

    I agree with everything Diane Chen wrote. I absolutely LOVED this book, and I already recommended it to all my friends.

  3. Diane, my feeling mirror you words! I also thot the fact that tyhe author consistently spoke with a young teen’s voice! No easy feat! So will we see this book in your library?

  4. HI Adam, Remember I am currently serving PreK-4th graders so Down to the Bone is a little beyond us right now, but not much. I’m considering switching schools to get a change and looking at high schools/middle also. If I go there this summer, Down to the Bone will be one of my first picks. Remember I have to have Nick of Time, too, for fantasy adventure. I’m starting my list of new musthave’s while I contemplate change.

  5. Michelle says:

    How great to see your review, and I agree with everything you said. I think the book is just terrific, and like all great books — it has to be read and shared. The more libraries that carry it, the better.

  6. I know what you mean about being so engrossed that you didn’t want to pick up the phone. I enjoyed it immensely and wished that I this book existed when I was in my teens!!

  7. I spoke with some people who are not as accepting of GLBT literature tonight and encouraged them to read this book. One of them asked me if I was “afraid” to recommend a book that could be controversial._______

    HaHaha hahaha! They must not have read my blog posts where I beg for someone to contradict me just so I know you are awake. ________
    Before anyone can criticize literature, they have to READ it and I dare you to read this and not be affected.

  8. Dear Diane, thank you for your courteous reply, to what was a very poorly written letter!

  9. Mayra Lazara Dole says:

    hi, Diane,

    You enjoy being stretched emotionally/ intellectually and you love a fiery debate and being contradicted? I invite you to read my new, highly controversial educational column for the Latina/o LGBTQ AMBIENTE MAGAZINE: Flawless Machos & Dominatrix Fembos: Trans-Forming Homophobia, which might make the folks you mention, and other middle grade librarians, faint!
    Mayra Lazara Dole

  10. Mayra Lazara Dole says:

    Dear Diane Chen:

    A friend just came across your review and commented on how “magnificent” it is. I agreed. May I please place your powerful review on Amazon?–it’s the most passionate review in history! I’m not experienced at adding reviews, but I can try to place yours with a hyperlink that leads here, to PRACTICALLY PARADISE so folks can visit your blog. I hope you read this and let me know. Thank you so much.

    aka Mayra Lazara Dole

  11. Diane Chen says:

    Hello Mayra, I believe I emailed you, but my blog comment didn’t show up so I’m reposting. Everyone may share my reviews/comments/ramblings as long as they credit and attempt to link back here. I appreciate your letting me know. I am always available via email at dianerchen at comcast dot net, so be sure to drop me a line. Thanks.