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Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country edited by Leila Guerriero [in Booklist]

Since Obama’s 2014 visit reestablishing ties between the U.S. and Cuba, American travelers have had the long-lost opportunity for direct exploration, but there are “no easy answers,” warns Argentinian journalist Leila Guerriero at the start of her anthology of stupendously astute essays. Half are by authors writing from within Cuba, others by outsiders passing through, and only three were originally written in English.

The view from the inside includes a visit by a young Cuban to his recently immigrated doctor father turned coconut-gatherer in Miami and an exploration of “transitions (to what?)” in a country where today “everything is considered a turning point.” Vladimir Cruz writes about co-starring in Cuba’s only Oscar-nominated film, Strawberry and Chocolate. Other contributors consider feminism within revolutionary socialism, Cuban baseball history, and jinetero, locals who sell companionship and sex to tourists.

Moving “outside” in the second half reveals post-Obama politics, everyday Cuban lives, the quality-of-life divide between foreigners and locals, not-so-hidden secrets both mercantile and religious, the legendary Tropicana nightclub a quarter-century ago and currently, and a captivating Havana bookstore.

Marked by “doubt and contradiction,” Guerriero’s meticulously curated dozen essays offers an irresistibly beckoning window onto a nation just 90 miles from American shores, though far away in practice and culture.

Review: “Nonfiction,” Booklist, September 15, 2017

Readers: Adult

Published: 2017


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