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Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today Paperback – April 26, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Havana Real

"An important new voice, both literary and political."
Larry Rohter, New York Times

"Perhaps the greatest hope for Cuba exists in the simple fact that Sanchez, a seriously disillusioned child of the revolution, chooses to stay there and pressure for change from within, while so many others choose to flee."
Miriam Zoila Perez, Ms. Magazine

"With her vivid portraits of family and friends, including Cuba’s determined dissidents, Yoani Sanchez dissolves the abstractions used to fuse individuals into generic masses. Little wonder that state media have labeled her and her friends 'cyber commandos.'"
Mary Speck, Washington Post

"Speaks for the generation who came of age after the U.S.S.R. collapsed."
Boston Globe

"Raw journalism at its best...Enlightening, engaging and brave, this is a must-read for anyone with an interest in Cuba--or for anyone who nurses romantic notions about this tiny, brutal communist state."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Other books offer a glance at Cuba still under a Castro, but none can compare with this remarkable diary of a life most can only imagine... unequivocally highly recommended not just just for all who are interested in Cuba today, but for fans of memoir, non-U.S. women's perspectives, and all who are concerned with human rights."
Library Journal

"A heckuva writer... A sharp-edged snapshot of life in Cuba."  
Juan Tamayo, The Miami Herald

Praise for Yoani Sánchez

“Under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot: freedom of speech. . .”

“Ms. Sánchez paints an unflinching, and deeply personal, portrait of the Cuban experience.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Filled with personal observations and sardonic social commentary . . . [Sánchez’s] bleak poetry does not focus overtly on politics, but instead conveys the texture of daily life in a crumbling totalitarian system.”
—The New York Times

“[Sánchez] provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba . . . empower[ing] fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology.”
—Barack Obama

“What has probably unnerved the regime is not so much her attacks on the Castro brothers as her vivid description of daily life. . . . Where does this woman get her courage?”
—The Washington Post

"She has used technology to promote positive change. She has created an interactive space for the exchange of ideas and free expression. She has given voice to the concerns and aspirations of her fellow citizens…. And so her words, despite her government’s best efforts, are being translated into other languages, are being picked up and spread around because freedom knows no boundaries. And she deserves our thanks for demonstrating that again and again."
Hillary Clinton

About the Author

YOANI SÁNCHEZ, a University of Havana graduate in philology, emigrated to Switzerland in 2002. Two years later, she decided to return to Cuba but promised herself she would live there as a free person and started her blog, Generation Y, upon her return. In 2008, Time magazine named her one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World"; it named Generation Y one of the "Best Blogs of 2009." Spain honored her with its highest award for digital journalism, the Ortega y Gasset Prize. In 2011, Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored her with the International Women of Culture Award. She lives with her husband, independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar, and their son in a high-rise apartment in Havana overlooking Revolution Square.

M.J. PORTER lives in Seattle, where she is a partner in a transportation-consulting firm. She co-founded the cooperative website, HemosOido.com, where volunteers now translate the work of more than thirty Cuban bloggers into English, German, French and Danish.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554257
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I can't believe there are people that never set a foot in Cuba, have never experienced in their own skin the oppression of a communist totalitarian regime, have never live on a salary of 20 USD a month (which is a above the average) and yet dare to criticize the stories Yoani bravely describes in her blog and call them fake.
I have friends that were expelled from university in Cuba because they were not atheists. I always lived with the fear my father would go to prison because his cartoons criticized the government. The church magazine where he published the cartoons was retired from circulation several times. Several times we had to hide all the "forbidden" books (1984, Animal Farm) because we thought they would raid our house.
In the 60s the government ran concentration camps for homosexuals, people that wanted to leave Cuba or were not in accordance with the government. At present any physician that requests permission to leave the island is punished for 5 years before the government grants the permission, some people never get a permission to leave. Some people leave and are never allowed to go back, even if they leave their family behind.
In the 90s there was an epidemic disease whose main cause was malnutrition, it affected thousands of Cubans. The Minister of Health Care was demoted when he called international physicians to investigate the cause and it turned out to be under-nourishment.
There are about 1 million of Cubans in the exile, maybe more, disperse all over the world, political prisoners, missing people that drawn in the Florida strait, trying to scape political prosecution and misery, that should tell you something...
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Format: Paperback
Fair warning, I am the "longtime friend" of the translator (42 years) but I'm not letting that bias my review. Up til now, most of what I read was programming code for the translation site hemosoido.com so this is the first time I'm really reading Yoani's story and I am engrossed.

It's a comprehensive view of life in Cuba - from the international to the most intimate of daily activities. For those who are anti-socialist, and are lauding this book as a blow to the Castro regime, I think they are projecting their own feeling because that is not what Yoani wrote.

What it leaves the objective reader thinking, is that there is much corruption and lack of accountability with the Cuban governmental entities and this, in turn, makes day to day life for the average Cuban a real challenge. As does the economic blockade.

Yoani doesn't talk about international policy so much as about the EFFECTS of that policy - chronic shortages of essential items...as trivial as tampons (not that this is trivial when you flat out can't get them) to food and a roof over one's head (the actual roof, that is - not the building).

The story is fascinating, the writing flows and it is hard to put down. The unspoken part of this story is what a courageous woman Yoani is.

The book leaves you inspired.
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Format: Paperback
To any tourists who will be traveling to Cuba: I recommend a book such as this one over any tourist guide. Yoani's writing flows in a way that clearly captures the absurdity of living under a totalitarian state, simply by describing her day to day. It is also a window to an alternative information system in Cuba- the independent blogosphere, which grows more and more each day. In one way or another, Cuba's independent journalists and bloggers like Yoani have become the real reporters of the island, and the voice of the suppressed Cuban people. Their texts, their blog entries, and their "Tweets" have become real news in a country where the media only reports what the government deems necessary. Daily, bloggers such as Yoani, independent journalists, and other dissidents are constantly reporting about arrests, beatings, expulsions, and even assassinations (Zapata, Juan Wilfredo Soto, etc.)

The fact that this book has been translated to English is extremely important. I would definitely recommend it to those non-Cubans who do not know much about Cuba, or who are interested in finding out more, or who simply care about the reality of the island. Yoani Sanchez's "Havana Real" is a must read. Props to the translator for doing such a great job!

Long live a free and democratic Cuba!
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Format: Paperback
Sánchez's book is very easy to read. It is a collection of three years worth of blog posts, each about a page long. The posts cover many topics, but few topics are covered in great detail.

Reading the intimate details about life in Havana is illuminating. The lack of running water, the crumbling infrastructure, the joy of finding Krazy Glue, the need to bring pillows and clean syringes to a hospital, and the problems with purchasing anything but bread paint a picture of a difficult life for all residents. The underground economy, which includes pirated copies of "Law and Order" and the installation of hidden satellite dishes, is another topic that receives some print in the book.

Unfortunately, because the book is taken straight from the blog, it is not very organized. The names of people she brings up are unknown to a reader like me with limited knowledge of the country and requires more explanation from Sánchez. I imagine that reading the blog would be much easier, because the reader could get those explanations instantly. Many posts are about the author's awards and prior publications, which create problems because she is unable to travel outside Cuba in order to receive them or attend publishing conferences. Many posts are also about Sánchez's attempts to organize bloggers within Cuba and the difficulty she has accessing the internet in order to use sites like WordPress, YouTube and Twitter.

Perhaps this wasn't the book for it, but I would have liked to read more about the foreign investments in Cuba that Sánchez discussed. There was little in the way of actual economics in this book, aside from the surely legitimate complaints about the government making statistics up about cane and beef harvests.

As an author, Sánchez is very poetic. She uses wonderful imagery. She is clearly a brave person who deserves praise for pioneering the need for freedom of the press in every country.
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