After Fidel, Cuba’s Problems Still Loom
Julia Cooke’s New Book Sheds Light on the New Cuba
Over a period of five years, beginning when Fidel Castro stepped down from his presidency in 2008 after almost a half-century of reign, award-winning journalist Julia Cooke embedded herself in Cuba. She gained 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, Santeria trainees, pregnant prostitutues, 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.
Cooke is a recipient of fellowships from The Norman Mailer Center and Columbia University, where she earned her MFA. Her writing has appeard in Condé Nast, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Gawker, The Christian Science Monitor and many other publications. She currently lives in New York City and teaches at the New School. The Other Side of Paradise is her first book.
Excerpt: The Storm
Lucía was pretty pleased with herself. No real preparation, other than filling up a few two-liter plastic bottles with water now spiced with TuKola and lemon soda, and she’d slide through this ciclón just fine, she knew it. Well, she didn’t know it, but she sensed that she’d get through Hurricane Ike the way she got through everything: clinging to the edge by fingernails, a big grin slopped across her face.
path of destruction. Ike would just skim Havana.
Mornings felt like late afternoons, full with the sense of people in bedrooms, taking naps. Students came to class so rarely in rainstorms that instructors stopped showing up to sit before a gallery of chipped wooden chairs. Anyone caught anywhere but at home faced fresh coffee and conversation. Any event requiring elegant clothing or a prompt arrival was out of the quesiton, postponed or cancelled implicitly, because not enough people had cars.
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