Indifferently written, but full of sharp observations on modern Cuba—for policymakers and travelers alike.

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LAST DANCE IN HAVANA

THE FINAL DAYS OF FIDEL AND THE START OF THE NEW CUBAN REVOLUTION

An African-American journalist travels through Cuba, returning with news that, while the glory days of socialism are gone, Castro and company are very much in charge.

“After forty-four years,” writes Washington Post editor Robinson, “Fidel is still in firm control of Cuba. He faces no serious challenge.” Meantime, the Cuban people make music, dance, and worship ancestral gods brought from Africa and blended with Christian traditions to make a religion quite specific to the island; as Robinson writes, this mixture “allowed the slaves to pray to the orishas in a way that their Spanish overlords not only had to tolerate, but encourage. They probably knew . . . that the slaves who came to the churches to pray so fervently before the statues of the Virgin Mary were in fact praying to a sultry black demigoddess who would help them find their way in affairs of love.” Foreigners—Italians, Canadians, and visitors from other nations not strapped by America’s longstanding prohibition against free travel to Cuba—bring money and ideas, soak up the atmosphere of storied venues like the Tropical Club, and return with CDs, rum, and cigars, but rarely anything more untoward. (Fidel once remarked that if there were to be prostitutes in Cuba, they would be “the healthiest and best-educated prostitutes in the world.”) Those who perforce remain on the island have weathered a long economic crisis brought on by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of its financial support, and, writes Robinson, are now discovering that long-dormant inequalities are returning, since most of the money sent to the island by expatriates comes from whites and goes to whites. What’s to come from all this hardship? Perhaps a peaceful transition to a new government, once Fidel shuffles off the mortal coil; perhaps harder times as doctrinaire Communists vie for leadership.

Indifferently written, but full of sharp observations on modern Cuba—for policymakers and travelers alike.

Pub Date: July 12, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4622-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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