A candid firsthand account of an island undergoing a shaky transition.

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THIS IS CUBA

AN AMERICAN JOURNALIST UNDER CASTRO'S SHADOW

A journalist witnesses social and political changes in post-Castro Cuba.

Sent to Cuba in 2009 as a CNN cameraman and correspondent, Ariosto arrived in Havana naïve about Cuban culture, politics, and history. What he learned during his two-year stint for CNN, and from many subsequent trips, opened his eyes to the reality and prospects of the island nation. Like BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford, whose recent memoir painted a dark portrait of Cuban life, Ariosto offers a penetrating report of a nation struggling with serious challenges. “In Cuba, everything is corrupt,” one young man told the author, explaining his reasons for wanting to emigrate to America. “They sell an image of a certain life to the world. But it’s a lie. There’s cocaine. There’s prostitution. There’s corruption.” With monthly wages at about $25, Ariosto estimates that about 95 percent of the country participates in a “shadow economy,” where “theft is a relative concept” and procuring supplies or repairs depends on knowing “a guy who knew a guy.” The author himself stocked up on necessities such as batteries and toilet paper during a brief trip home. Social problems abound: Despite Fidel Castro’s aim for economic equality, racial discrimination has led to growing impoverishment among Cuba’s black population. News is censored and information strictly controlled: Even as late as 2016, only 37 percent of Cubans could get online, and an hour of Wi-Fi service costs about a third of a month’s salary, spawning “a patchwork of smuggled-in satellite dishes, a ramshackle network of homegrown, file-sharing entrepreneurs,” and a thriving underground market. That spiderwebbed network, though, was hardly clandestine. In Havana, “eyes were everywhere”: closed-circuit cameras, onlookers and informants in the streets, and government employees at CNN who were expected to submit reports about the journalists. Although Barack Obama’s efforts to forge ties to Cuba inspired a “kumbaya moment,” Donald Trump’s policies are dashing hopes, and housing, food, and medicine shortages create a crisis of confidence among a restive population.

A candid firsthand account of an island undergoing a shaky transition.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17697-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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