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A Novel for Young Readers

By Nancy Osa

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Copyright 2014 by Nancy Osa


Yes, you! What good is a book without a reader? I believe that fiction is a dialogue— a two-way road, not a dead-end street. Although I had my own ideas and wishes as I wrote Cuba 15, it becomes your story when you read it.


You will interpret a book differently than the next reader, considering its insights, laughing at certain jokes, and— as one of my fans said— comparing yourself to the characters. Reading isn’t just fun; it is a way to better understand your place on this planet. That is the magic of story. Fiction gives you the power to put your feet into someone else’s zapatos. And that makes you a better person!


We all wish we could be in two places at once, right? Creating fiction lets me grow another brain— or sometimes multiple brains! With each character that I develop, I am able to think from a new point of view. Why does Violet know nothing of her Cuban heritage? How do Leda and Janell grow along with their friend during her fifteenth year? As I pass along the answers to readers, we all gain an understanding of others.


I wrote Cuba 15 because I wanted to learn more about my own background but found it hard to get information about Cuba and even about my own family there. I wondered what it would have been like to be “more Cuban” and celebrate my own quinceañero, or fifteenth year, as I faced adulthood. I remembered how much fun I had writing and performing comedy on the speech team in high school and how that “saved me” from the difficult issues in life.


“Violet’s hilarious cool first-person narrative veers between farce and tenderness, denial and truth…”

Booklist, starred review

“Cuba 15 will make readers laugh, whether or not their families are as loco as Violet’s.”

The Horn Book Magazine

“The world becomes her stage as Violet embraces both her heritage and her individuality. Osa skillfully stitches two worlds together.”


“This funny and tender chronicle of Violet's 15th year [reveals] an appreciation of the absurd throughout…”

Kirkus Reviews

“As a bonus, readers get some exposure to Cuban history and culture.”

–Publisher’s Weekly

Photo Ken Morris

“Chucho” says hi!

Due to Cuba’s proximity to and relationship with America, folks from Cuba are found all over the U.S. Chicago, Illinois, has a large Cuban American population.

Because I know the city well, I used it as the real-life setting for Cuba 15. Violet’s hometown of “Lincolnville” is a fictional place–a suburb like many that surround the largest city in the Land of Lincoln.

If you visit Chicago, you’ll find lots of places to enjoy Cuban food, music, and dancing. You’ll also encounter the most American of pastimes and culture: baseball, hotdogs, and down-home blues music.

Somewhere in this Web site are 7 pictures of items mentioned in CUBA 15. Can you locate all of them?

You will find the answers on “The Author” page!

From CUBA to …
SPANISH as a Second Language

As Violet and Leda learn in Ms. Wong’s first-year Spanish class, most Americans already know some Spanish. Some words, such as sombrero and dinero, are common knowledge. Others, such as beisbol and baseball, are spelled differently but pronounced the same. Still others, such as excelente and mucho, are cognates, or words that are very similar in both languages. Which of the following vocabulary words do you know?

Abuela, grandmother

Abuelo, grandfather

Baile, dance

Cabra, goat

Chica, little girl

Claro que sí, clearly it is

Damas de honor, maids of honor

Domingo, Sunday

Especial, special

Fotógrafo, photographer

Hija, daughter or any younger woman

Hijo, son or any younger man

Humedad, humidity

-Ito or -Ita, little: Cabrito = little goat; Chiquita = little girl

Loco or Loca, crazy

Mundo, world: Todo el mundo = everybody

Niña, girl

Niño, boy

Padrinos, godparents or sponsors

Paloma, dove

Poco or Poca, little bit; Poquito or Poquita = very little

Por supuesto, of course

Quince, 15: also short for quinceañero

Responsabilidad, responsibility

Tradicional, traditional