Some awkward prose and clashing metaphors mar the author’s heartfelt rendering of her Cuban adventure.

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LA AMERICANA

A MEMOIR

Political antagonisms fail to thwart a cross-cultural love affair.

In April 2001, a few months after her mother died of inoperable liver cancer, Simón took a trip to Cuba with a friend, a journey that proved both eye-opening and life-changing. In her debut memoir, the author recounts both her mother’s death and the trip, which was planned “as an off-path adventure,” featuring salsa and margaritas, and became, in her grief, “an escape, a desperately needed break from life without Mom.” The loss of her mother, she reflects, “had redefined me, springing brain circuits loose.” Noticing the poverty and repression in Castro’s Cuba—food was rationed, all workers were paid equally low wages, Cuban citizens were forbidden to use hotel facilities, and armed police were everywhere—the author wondered “why people even bothered going to school at all, despite the famously good, free education.” Yet despite these conditions, Cubans evinced much laughter, playfulness, and joy. Maybe, she thought, she could revive those feelings in herself—and she did after meeting Luis, a strikingly handsome taxi driver. The attraction was mutual and, she repeatedly attests, electrifying. When Luis first kissed her, she felt “an electric shock.” He made her flash “like a bulb,” and once, when he asked her to take a walk, she felt “a surge of energy…from my chest into my ears.” Their attraction seemed nothing less than “delirium...as we carried on in our escalating and hyper interest.” Their love, however, was threatened by travel restrictions imposed by their respective countries. Simón rushed back into Luis’ arms each time she arrived in Havana, and she wept on each plane ride back to the U.S. Overcoming daunting legal hurdles, they finally married, and Luis managed to come to Savannah, where their family lives.

Some awkward prose and clashing metaphors mar the author’s heartfelt rendering of her Cuban adventure.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5107-0255-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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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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