Terry Catasus Jennings with her book

Author escaped Cuba and found a haven in America

November 7, 2022


Some of alum Terry Catasús Jennings’ most vivid memories are from 1961 in Cuba. When she was 12 years old, her father disappeared during the Bay of Pigs invasion.

“It was a catastrophe,” Jennings said. “So many people were being arrested, but it was not clear why. I was brought home early from school because my father’s secretary called to tell us that he was taken.” 

In the days after the invasion, Fidel Castro’s government jailed hundreds of Cubans suspected of being counter-revolutionaries. When the invasion failed, her father was released, and her family was able to escape to the U.S. They moved into a small home with two other immigrant families in Tampa, Florida, which inspired her latest book, The Little House of Hope.

“It's about a family who comes to the United States, rents a house, and then fixes it up to make it a home,” she said. “The house is their haven. They finally feel safe, and they're together.”

That safe haven gave Jennings the space she needed to learn, grow, and eventually attend college at the University of Richmond. She studied math and science, which helped her land a job in finance with a phone company. After working there for several years, she decided to stay home with her young children, which helped bolster her love for storytelling.

“Stories were always rolling around in my head,” Jennings said. She has published a number of other children’s books, but The Little House of Hope is close to her heart because of the story it tells about immigrant communities.

Throughout the book, the family opens the home to other families, a story which she hopes will open the hearts of children, and parents, everywhere to learn more about immigrants. 

“There's so much anger out there against immigrants, and there's so much misunderstanding,” she said. “I think if you can understand the reasons behind someone coming to your country to live, then you can empathize. And if you empathize, then all the doors are open to becoming friends and to helping.”