The Oval Portrait was originally published as El retrato ovalado (Ediciones Union, Havana, Cuba, 2015). Editor Soleida Rios set a difficult task for herself and nearly three dozen other Cuban women writers, artists, and thinkers. She asked each to "choose a mask. With it she spins her story so that her own image appears in the story as well as the connection (always mysterious) and the symbol with which she has chosen to represent herself." The result, beyond being a postmodernist tour de force, was "a perfect vehicle for introspection." As Rios herself puts it: "The game requires us to go deep.... Shall we say: Rather than a portrait, construct a mirror, through which you may touch the difficult and shared places. And then, at the end, ask yourself the question: Which are your favorite lies?"
Born in New York in 1936, Randall grew up in New Mexico before living for twenty-three years in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua. In Mexico she co-founded and edited El corno emplumado/The Plumed Horn, a vanguard bilingual literary journal of the 1960s. In Cuba and Nicaragua she worked with other artists to contribute to social change. Randall returned to the US in 1984, only to face attacks on her writing that led to an effort to deport her under the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act. After a five-year battle, joined by many of the nation's outstanding artists, writers, unionists, religious leaders, and others, she won her case in 1989.