Carribean Authors & Writers Interview with Yvette Canoura: A Reflection
by Natalie Saldarriaga
Raíces Cultural center is proud to announce our Caribbean Authors & Writers oral history Collection. In this collection we will showcase interviews with Caribbean authors and writers from all different walks of life. Our main focus is to dig in deep with the authors and talk about how their culture influences and inspires their work.
In July 2023 I had the pleasure of sitting down for our first series interview with author Yvette Canoura to talk about her trilogy Mediterranean Sunset, her cultural upbringing, and the customs she has adopted along the way. Yvette’s own story began in the Bronx, but came to life on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. Yvette remembers her childhood on the island fondly as it was filled with rhythms and talented musicians thanks to her father’s career as a professional saxophone and flute player. This creativity was contagious and it didn’t take long for little Yvette to begin to create songs of her own. Later on in her adolescence songwriting became the basis and training for her journalism career. At the budding age of sixteen Yvette was interviewing the island’s most adored soap opera stars though due to her age her ability to work was often questioned, but she didn’t let that affect her. She returned to the United States to study journalism at Loyola University in New Orleans where she would meet her husband and one of the inspirations for Mediterranean Sunset. In meeting her Syrian husband Ibrahim, Yvette would be exposed to a new culture that was so distinct yet familiar to her own. Over the years Yvette began to consider the Muslim and Middle Eastern culture a part of her identity. Despite the daily exposure to it she came to create her own relationship and appreciation for the culture and its people. And that is how one evening in Syria while looking out into the horizon inspiration struck and the rest, as we say, is history.
I believe that a lot of the themes Yvette explores in her trilogy are universal and many people can relate to them. The first book centers around a young Muslim-American woman named Fatima. Fatima has to wrestle with how she envisioned her life to be versus what her religious Muslim father wanted for her. Fatima has to learn to reconstruct her identity while also keeping in mind the responsibility she has toward her family. I believe this is something that many people around the world have to come to terms with. We often desire different things for ourselves than our family or society may offer us, especially as women. In the second book, Children of Antarah, Fatima is now a wife and mother; she has to learn to deal with the difficulties of raising children, being a supportive wife, and keeping her faith while reckoning with decisions she made in the past. During our interview Yvette gave us a sneak peek into what we can expect from the last and final book of the trilogy Puerto Rican Sunrise which is due to be published sometime in 2025.
The trilogy, apart from being a fascinating series to dive into, can also serve as representation for those who often feel conflict between who they are and what others want them to be. Walking away from our interview I felt inspired. Yvette’s life and work are a prime example of knowing what you want and going for it. That isn’t to say that it has been easy or quick for her, but I believe that’s what makes her writing so special. Sometimes for us to make an impact we must first live through the many challenges of life because when we come out on the other side we are able to help others. And even though Yvette’s work is fiction I believe that her message is as real as it gets. Believe in yourself and in what you can offer and don’t compromise your integrity for anybody no matter how difficult it might be.
Thank you to Yvette for being so kind and generous with her time.