Writing for women everywhere


Aida Bahr holds up Ofelias, her award winning work. Photo credit: Sean Martens

Hannah Yeager

Clarification: This post has been updated to more accurately reflect Bahr’s experiences in Cuba.

Sometimes, a family is all you have. But, in some cases, even that can be snatched from you. Being threatened and afraid are everyday feelings that can be enhanced and worsened through separation from people, family, or culture.

Aida Bahr, a Cuban writer from Holguín, Cuba, has recently published and won awards for her book Ofelias. Published by Cubanabooks, a non-profit publishing platform started by Sara Cooper a professor at Chico State, Ofelias covers many of the feelings that women go through when they feel threatened and intimidated by life and situations that they get put in.

She throws the reader into a book that portrays the ways people think when their mind and bodies are pushed to the limit and they are brought to madness. It also addresses many of the gender and violence issues we see today all over the world, but specifically in her hometown of Holguín, Cuba.

“You can not write without your surrounding and culture. It’s not that they impact, they form; they create. Everything that I write is a result of my culture and surroundings because I was formed by it,” Bahr said.

Growing up in the midst of the Cuban Revolution, the world around Bahr was filled with the huge social transformations the revolution brought on, not without struggle and conflicts.

“I grew up in peculiar circumstances. I lived through it since the beginning. I have no recollection of a life before the revolution,” said Bahr.

She expressed that she had a generally happy childhood but it was also marked by the sorrow of seeing her family being divided by emigration. Throughout her life she lost people and went through the highs and lows that most people go through and was impacted by a few specific ones.

“Even before, as a human being and not just as a writer, when my most loved cousins and uncles left the country, it was as if they were dying. It was like you would never see them again,” Bahr said.

She lost that part of her family at a young age but old enough to feel the loss and know what it meant, according to Bahr, and that was only the beginning.

The main event that impacted her as a writer and that changed her writing in Ofelias and other works for, what she hopes to be, the better, was the death of her husband.

“They became very bitter stories, sad stories, and painful stories. It was the best I could do at the moment,” Bahr said.

When her husband died in 2004, she was in the middle of writing Ofelias. She didn’t know how she was supposed to go on after the passing of her husband. He was not only her spouse but also her best friend and fellow writer.

Her stories in her book Ofelias didn’t necessarily change in content, according to Bahr, but in tone. They went from being driven by fear, to being driven by agony.

She knows that all women, of every age, will go through joy and pain and that the way you face the pain is what makes you stronger. According to Bahr, she writes to address the situations that women can go through and when the world starts to mold and bend you, bitterness tends to be one of the main outcomes.

“You cant pretend to adapt the world to you,” said Bahr when asked to give advice to women here at Chico State, “you must coexist with the world, but always preserving what is your essence. Don’t try to bend the world, but don’t let the world try to bend you too much.”

Hannah Yeager can be reached at the [email protected] or @theorion_news.