Julia Cooke's fascinating The Other Side of Paradise is a sobering read, but it is also deeply sympathetic and remarkably apolitical. Cooke offers detailed portraits of everyday lives, as well as of her own experiences living in Havana, and allows the reader to develop his own opinions of the Castro brothers' regimes and American-Cuban relations. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Over a period of five years, beginning when Fidel Castro stepped down from his presidency after almost a half-century of reign, journalist Julia Cooke embedded herself in Cuba, gaining access to a dynamic Havana one that she found populated with twenty-five-year-old Marxist philosophy students, baby-faced anarchists, children of the whiskey-drinking elite, Santería trainees, pregnant prostitutes, and more.
Combining intimate storytelling with in-depth reportage, The Other Side of Paradise weaves together stories of the Cubans whom Cooke encountered, providing a vivid and unprecedented look into the daily lives and future prospects of young people in Cuba today. From ambitious Lucía a recent university graduate with an acerbic sense of humor and plans to leave Cuba for the first country to give her a visa, if she can just get the roadblocks out of the way to a crew of mohawk-wearing teenage anarchists who toss bricks at police cars and cite lyrics by The Clash (but don't know the lead singer's name), the characters of The Other Side of Paradise paint a captivating portrait of Cuban culture and the emerging legacy of Fidel Castro's failed promises.
Eye-opening and politically prescient, The Other Side of Paradise is sure to linger in readers minds long after they've finished reading.
Bookended with an introduction and epilogue, Cooke describes her timespent in Cuba. She interviews Cubanos who only knew life under Fidel Castro's rule, and describes Cuban life before and aftercapitalism--the "graying" of Cuba as the young and ambitious leave for greener pastures; relaxation of laws as extended visas are nowoffered to the inhabitants; the story of an exodus, if not physical, mental, as the internet provides a window to the rest of the world.But there are cautions even under Raul, even as every five-year plan shifts more towards the outside world. There is a bibliography.Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
About the Author
Julia Cooke is a freelance journalist and teacher who has lived in and reported from Mexico City and Havana. She has received fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center and Columbia University, where she completed her master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing. Her essays about Cuba have been published in Conde Nast Traveller
, the Virginia Quarterly Review
, and The Best Women's Travel Writing
anthology, among numerous newspapers and magazines. She is fluent in Spanish.
Cooke grew up in Portland, Oregon, and now lives in New York City, where she writes and teaches at the New School. The Other Side of Paradise is her first book.