Havana emerges as a city like no other: a place where humans, in many ways, are at their most vibrantly human.



The EU Ambassador to Cuba pens a temperate love letter to Havana.

Portocarero (All Demons’ Day: The Havana Pirate Manuscript, 2008, etc.), who has published extensively in Europe, tells us that he is not offering an academic but a personal history: “a rambling walkabout,” he calls it. And so it is. In nearly 90 small subsections, the author takes us to various neighborhoods, monuments, ruins, and street festivals; introduces us to artists; and briefly discusses a wide range of subjects, from religion to Hemingway to revolution to the Bay of Pigs to papal visits and to the recent historic return of the U.S. in the person of President Barack Obama, of whom Portocarero is clearly a fan. Some of the author’s topics are what readers will expect, but there are others that will no doubt surprise—e.g., the increasing Muslim presence, a classical ballet company, the history of slavery, the rise of soccer popularity in a country long noted for its baseball-mania, and the death penalty, which has been outlawed since 2005. (Oddly, Portocarero does not discuss the health care system.) The author also makes continual note of the carnal aspects of Cuban life, from decades ago to the present. He admits that many people associate such things with Havana, and he finds them appealing himself. He repeatedly laments the sad state of the historical buildings and homes in and around the city, and he believes many are beyond repair. Refreshingly, the author is not afraid to mention things he does not admire—the limited freedoms, the government-controlled press, the economic models the country embraces—but he remains an ardent advocate for a city electrified with life and passion.

Havana emerges as a city like no other: a place where humans, in many ways, are at their most vibrantly human.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-933527-88-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Turtle Point

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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


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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