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City Beat: The Perez Family [New Miami magazine]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
New Miami magazine
City Beat / Book Review
August 1991
Design by Kevin Jolliffe

WHAT WOULD A HUSBAND AND wife talk about at the breakfast table if he had spent 20 years as a political prisoner in Cuba and she had spent those same 20 years selling furniture at Sears?

Christine Bell first imagined that darkly comical scene in 1980, when the Mariel boatlift flooded Miami with tens of thousands of Cuban refugees. Her imaginary breakfast scene became the basis for her second novel, “The Perez Family.”

The touching tale tracks the lives of Marielitos Juan Raul and Dottie Perez, refugees who struggle to define their place in Miami as free people.

A native of Yonkers, NY, Bell moved to Florida in 1979 and graduated from the University of Miami School of Nursing in the early ’80s before joining the code-blue cardiac team at Baptist Hospital in South Miami. During her lunch hour and on her days off, Bell developed her novel.

It was time well spent. This month, Publisher HarperCollins is doing a second run on the book as paperback.

Her first book, “Saint,” published in 1985, is the story of a Spanish woman dying of cancer as seen through the eyes of her American daughter-in-law. Both “Saint,” and “The Perez Family,” have been optioned for movies.

Whether her imaginary characters will make it to the big screen remains to be seen. For now, Bell says she is content to work on novel number three, a story about Key West.

Local notable Helen Muir, author of “Miami U.S.A.,” is looking forward to seeing what Bell cooks up.

“The reason you know Christine is a fine novelist is that, when she writes of pain, it is intimate and poetic,” Muir says. “When she writes of anger, it assumes a physical shape. And when she touches humor, it is vivid and to the point and black-bordered, like all true humor is. Here we have a writer of substance.”


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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.