February 2020 Book Club Selection

The Other Side of Paradise
Cooke, Julia: The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba (2014)

Discussion: Tuesday, February 11, 2020, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Paul and Susie Robillard, 5405 NW Deerfield Way in Portland, 503-430-1776. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Booklist: As the title suggests, this is a rather dreary portrait of post-Fidel Cuba. Cooke is a journalist and teacher at the New School in New York. Her observations are the result of living in Cuba and interacting with a variety of ordinary Cuban citizens over a five-year period. Her account is absorbing, touching, but certainly depressing. As described here, Cuba is a postrevolutionary culture in which the fires of revolution have burned out. So largely gone is the optimism, the spirit of community and self-sacrifice, and the belief in the creation of “the new socialist man.” What remains, unfortunately, is the political repression, stifling bureaucracy, and material deprivation. Cooke’s narrative includes wonderful vignettes covering the daily lives of Cubans in which their hopes, dreams, and frustrations are revealed. Lucia, a well-educated and relatively privileged young woman, sees little future for herself in Cuba and hopes to emigrate. So does Sandra, a street-smart prostitute who refutes government claims to have ended “exploitation.” But there are snippets of optimism, as citizens bravely and brazenly complain about their government.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

September 2016 Book Club Selection

Waiting for Snow in Havana
Eire, Carlos N.M.: Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy* (2003)

* 2003 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Discussion: Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Teri Kaliher, 4841 SW Richardson Dr in Portland, 503-246-7103. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © The New Yorker: At the start of the nineteen-sixties, an operation called Pedro Pan flew more than fourteen thousand Cuban children out of the country, without their parents, and deposited them in Miami. Eire, now a professor of history and religion at Yale, was one of them. His deeply moving memoir describes his life before Castro, among the aristocracy of old Cuba—his father, a judge, believed himself to be the reincarnation of Louis XVI—and, later, in America, where he turned from a child of privilege into a Lost Boy. Eire’s tone is so urgent and so vividly personal (he is even nostalgic about Havana’s beautiful blue clouds of DDT) that his unsparing indictments of practically everyone concerned, including himself, seem all the more remarkable.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble