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

HAVANA WITHOUT MAKEUP

INSIDE THE SOUL OF THE CITY

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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