Even for readers familiar with Cuban history, there are many discoveries to be made here.

CUBA

THE AUDACIOUS REVOLUTION

There’s something for everyone in this portrait of Cuba as a nation full of paradoxes that seem to exasperate residents and observers alike, regardless of political affiliation.

Gedda (Dominican Connection, 2009) draws on more than 30 years of experience as a reporter for the Associated Press in this wide-ranging work that he accurately describes as “part memoir, part anecdote, part history, and part analysis.” Along those lines, the thematic organization of the book seems to mimic a series of sketches or snapshots that sometimes overlap by necessity or design, so the occasional repetition of material in different chapters doesn’t diminish its value or impact. From the outset, the author situates himself nicely, detailing the extent of his contact with Cubans while also recognizing the limitations of his perspective as an outsider. His press credentials only take him so far, but definitely farther than most Americans could hope to venture given the travel restrictions still in place and the rationing of information, a notable concept that appears throughout the text. Gedda skillfully juxtaposes the achievements and failures of the Cuban Revolution—a high literacy rate alongside compromised media outlets and limited Internet access, universal health care without basic medical supplies and a free educational system that produces well-trained graduates who sacrifice professional careers in order to earn hard currency by serving tourists. Serious problems with housing, transportation, nutrition and race relations do not escape Gedda’s view. The author thus goes beyond statistics to demonstrate concrete strategies of survival in a land of scarcity; he lists, for instance, the components of improvised brake fluid and the ingredients of a meatless dish known as “grapefruit steak.” Additionally, his inclusion of recent policy changes on both sides of the Straits of Florida suggests the potential for significant shifts in U.S./Cuba relations and, more poignantly, underscores an uncertain future for all Cubans, whether living on the island or in exile.

Even for readers familiar with Cuban history, there are many discoveries to be made here.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456480226

Page Count: 329

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2012

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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