Tauris Parke. (Literary Guides for Travellers). Jun. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781788314992. $28. TRAV
This book is not a guidebook to Cuba—it doesn’t list historical landmarks or sights to see; instead, historian and literary critic Gonzalez (Latin American studies, Univ. of Glasgow) provides background on the country through its literature and arts. Much of Gonzalez’s attention is concentrated on Cuba’s economy, past and present. He writes that Cuba was known (somewhat reductively) as a place of forbidden vices, sensual and seductive people, rum, cigars, and nightclubs and hotels. Gonzalez shares historical accounts of slavery, piracy, and the sugar industry, beginning with Columbus, who promised gold to the island’s inhabitants but instead took the first step in annexing the nation to a Spanish empire that would last 400 years. U.S. politicians (like Nelson Rockefeller and the Dulles brothers) also had financial stakes in the Cuban economy and they pushed policies that supported the “Americanization of Cuba” and restrictive laws which marginalized working-class Black Cubans, Gonzalez writes. And tourism, which formed the largest part of the country’s income before the 1950s Cuban Revolution, still dominates the economy today. Gonzalez’s approach is scholarly but accessible as it presents the quandaries of modern Cuba.
VERDICT For readers looking for a comprehensive survey of Cuban literature. Most academic libraries and large public libraries with an interest in Cuba should consider this work for their collections.
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