Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SOCIALIST DREAMS AND BEAUTY QUEENS by Jamie Maslin

SOCIALIST DREAMS AND BEAUTY QUEENS

A Couchsurfer's Memoir of Venezuela

By Jamie Maslin

Pub Date: June 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-61608-221-5
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

A raw, uncut journey into the wilds of Venezuela.

Travel writer Maslin (Iranian Rappers and Persian Porn: A Hitchhiker's Adventures in the New Iran, 2009) offers a firsthand account of the many debacles endured throughout his Venezuelan trek. Yet what makes his story unique is the manner in which he chooses to experience the country—by couch surfing, a get-what-you-pay-for approach to traveling in which hosts open their homes to strangers. The result is a comic tale in which Maslin soon finds himself accosted by corrupt cops and abandoned by unruly cab drivers, as well as serving as pincushion to an overzealous nurse and her needle. While the author blends his problematic personal narrative alongside Venezuela's historical backdrop, and current turbulent politics under the leadership of loose cannon Hugo Chávez the personal tale wins out. His experiences on the ground depict a poverty-stricken nation with a predatory populace looking to exploit naïve travelers. However, Maslin provides another view as well, in which the beauty-obsessed citizens somehow find the funds to frequent plastic surgeons with the regularity most people reserve for dentists. Venezuela's body-complex epidemic comes into even sharper focus as the author draws connections between plastic surgery and the country's love for beauty pageants—a cultural undercurrent that transforms young girls to grown women with the flick of a scalpel. Maslin soon moves beyond the Venezuelan people's proclivities, devoting equal time to the country's natural beauty, including a journey into the dense jungles to glimpse Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall. This juxtaposition between people and place—as well as beauties both natural and otherwise—offers a rare commentary on a country most readers know little about.

A complex portrait of Venezuela's people, poverty and promise.