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The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba Paperback – April 1, 2014
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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. --Jay Freeman
"This irresistible gander at Cuba today features the liveliest prose and the sharpest eye for detail. The contradictions and improvisatory adjustments within this strange society are brought home through a series of vital portraits by the author, Julia Cooke, whose sympathy never gets in the way of her search for the elusive truth."
"With top-notch reporting and an eye for detail, Cooke dives deeply into post-Fidel Cuba to deliver an intimate, exuberant, poignant account of lives spent waiting for change."
Elisabeth Eaves, author of Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents
"In a series of nimble profiles, Cooke expertly documents what is likely to be the last generation of the lost youth of Cubathe teens of the transition, with all their contradictions, sorrows, and calluses. The Other Side of Paradise is a tear-through read, full of vitality and compassion."
Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution
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Julia's experience and insights offer a different perspective from all the pro or anti Cuban governmental spin out there. The lives that are lived, the hopes and dreams of people... they're portrayed in this book much more realistically. Having an inside track and being as open to new experiences as Julia seems to have been was a godsend for the purpose of this book. Without the connections that Julia made, this book would not have been realized. To know that Julia was operating on a very tenuous platform helped give the book a sense of urgency. (Not sure that even makes sense, in all honesty.)
Julia's honesty and ability to talk to everyday Cubans really helped. The other side of the stories we hear in this country from Cuban expats, or those who have taken government sponsored trips, is what Julia was able to tell. My mom said the book is depressing - I'm not saying it isn't. I'm just saying that it's real. I really liked the fact that Julia was able to return and follow up on some stories and give an update.
I'm grateful for Julia's voice and for her writing. I felt like I was able to smell the breezes and hear the sounds.
The way each vignette reveals a facet of life is exactly the experience of being there, talking to locals, and learning one surprising fact after another, all the time being enthralled by the warmth and resolve of the people. Even without being a history or tour book, the stories weave in enough geographical and historical context so that I understood and appreciated my experiences there more quickly and strongly than I could have done on my own in just those few days. I found myself constantly sharing tidbits with my companions to help them understand what we were finding.
If the overall picture is unsettling, inconsistent, and uncertain, that is just because life in Cuba is unsettling, inconsistent, and uncertain at the moment. The Cuban people I met in person are friendly, pragmatic, and optimistic. If you can't visit yourself, this is a great way to get to know some of them vicariously. If you plan to go or have gone, this will certainly shed light on some of what you see.
great with education, health care and sports. tough with breakfast, lunch and dinner
Just came back from 5 days in Cuba and found this book to be accurate
safe, clean great for foreigners, even Americans
An engaging place full of contradictions. The people struggle, but are happy and want to make their country better
Well worth the read
Most recent customer reviews
Written. I am preparing for a trip to cuba and found it highly informative and cant wait to see how the book compares to what i see.