When We Left Cuba

This review first appeared on FutureFemaleLeaders.com 

The Official Future Female Leaders Book Club was launched to create a community of literature-loving ladies who not only talk about great books but read ones that will stretch their minds and have them engage with new ideas and people. 

That’s why we are so excited to introduce our November book pick, a historical fiction novel about the experience of a young Cuban exile who is torn between her homeland and the new land she is making her home in as the 1960s rage around her. 

When We Left Cuba is not only going to draw you in as a reader, but it’s going to open your mind and engage you with a moment of history we don’t all learn about in school. 

I remember seeing the film 13 Days in my AP US History Class–that was one of the first times I really learned about the tensions between the US and Cuba. 

But when I was in college, Fidel Castro died, and I watched the peace wash over my friend, whose grandparents had fled his regime in the 1960s–right around the time this novel is set. Though the island was not suddenly a Democratic haven because Fidel was dead, I watched my friend’s entire demeanor change when he learned that the man who had caused the death of so many was gone from this Earth.

 I watched him take up his pen against so-called campus liberals who had the audacity to say he should not celebrate Castro’s death. I watched people bend over backwards to try and say nice things about a dead Dictator, and I knew they were wrong, but after reading this novel, I had a renewed sense of anger towards them. 

What the Cuban people experienced was terrible in a lot of ways, and Beatriz Perez’s story, the one at the heart of When We Left Cuba, illuminates that, even if it is fiction on the page. The author, Chanel Cleeton, is Cuban and knows these stories from her family who lived through them. These aren’t just musings, their reflections of history past and present. 


Beatriz Perez is a young woman who had to flee the homeland she loved, but she is not willing to go down without a fight. This book is part romance, part spy novel, part coming of age novel, but it’s all heart and soul and passion–for people, for place, and for the idea of home, even when it can’t be a reality anymore. 


We loved When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton, and we hope you do too! We can’t wait to discuss this book with you throughout the month of November. Make sure you’re in our Facebook group and following us on Instagram



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