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This Is Cuba

An American Journalist Under Castro's Shadow
Narrated by: David Ariosto
Length: 8 hrs and 48 mins
4 out of 5 stars (33 ratings)
Regular price: $24.95
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Publisher's Summary

Fidel Castro is dead. Donald Trump was elected president. And to most outsiders, the fate of Cuba has never seemed more uncertain. Yet those who look close enough may recognize that signs of the next revolution are etched in plain view.

This is Cuba is a true story that begins in the summer of 2009 when a young American photo-journalist is offered the chance of a lifetime - a two-year assignment in Havana.

For David Ariosto, the island is an intriguing new world, unmoored from the one he left behind. From neighboring military coups, suspected honey traps, salty spooks, and desperate migrants to dissidents, doctors, and Havana’s empty shelves, Ariosto uncovers the island’s subtle absurdities, its Cold War mystique, and the hopes of a people in the throes of transition. Beyond the classic cars, salsa, and cigars lies a country in which black markets are ubiquitous, free speech is restricted, privacy is curtailed, sanctions wreak havoc, and an almost Kafka-esque goo of Soviet-style bureaucracy still slows the gears of an economy desperate to move forward.

But life in Cuba is indeed changing, as satellite dishes and internet hotspots dot the landscape and more Americans want in. Still, it’s not so simple. The old sentries on both sides of the Florida Straits remain at their posts, fists clenched and guarding against the specter of a Cold War that never quite ended, despite the death of Fidel and the hand-over of the presidency to a man whose last name isn’t Castro.

And now, a crisis is brewing.

In This Is Cuba, Ariosto looks at Cuba from the inside-out over the course of nine years, endeavoring to expose clues for what’s in store for the island as it undergoes its biggest change in more than half a century.

©2018 David Ariosto (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. Published by arrangement with St. Martin's Press.

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

David Ariosto has done a great job with this.

I have spent a lot of time in Cuba myself and wondered why no one has done a book like this before. The answer (I suspect) is that journalists affiliated with a network or newspaper, can not write about what they see and experience in Cuba without risking their accreditation and losing accreditation for their entire network. So Mr. Ariosto wrote this AFTER leaving Cuba and after leaving his job with CNN, therefore not putting his own job or CNN's accreditation at risk. Being in Cuba often feels like being in another dimension, an alternate universe, and Mr. Ariosto has nailed this. I hope to see more work from Mr. Ariosto on other conflict situations in the future. He also did a really good job on the reading. So this book has my recommendation. For reference I am the author of the graphic novel Ticket to Havana which is available on Amazon and on www.comixology.com

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A slice of an interesting life

Not just a review of the regular tired old caricatures but a thoroughly engaging painting of the complex reality that Cuba is. Things are never as they appear in so many things of life and when living as a journalist in Cuba that adage is additionally fueled. As the daughter of a Cuban man I thought this was careful and fair assessment of the reality that exists on the island. Having spent two weeks in Havana and it’s outskirts in early 2014 I was curious how the author viewed the developments of the last few years and here again the book is insightful and valuable. Well done!

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great insight into Cuban life

This was a great review of the life in Cuba, its people, the history, and an americans experience living there.

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Very well written book by a journalist.

I enjoyed the journalistic style, the wealth of information and how the author grasped the spirit of the cuban people. I feel that it is a must read before traveling to Cuba.

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You're really none the wiser

Things get off to a bad start when the photo-journalist starts to write in the purplest of all possible prose, while referencing the haunts of Ernest Hemingway, the most spartan of all writers. Okay, the man wants to spread his wings, but... "condensation seeped down their narrow drink glasses as perspiration poured through the speckled crevices of their thinning hair." Please stop.

But the biggest problem are yet to come, First, none of the first hand accounts are particularly interesting or earth-shattering. Turns out Cuba has shortages when it comes to groceries, batteries and chocolate. The rosy picture of Cuba's health care painted by Michael Moore is misleading (everyone, even progressives like myself, should take anything Moore says with several grains of salt). The vintage cars and nostalgic image of Cuba is a facade. And perhaps most shockingly, Havana prostitutes don't really care about you. The most interesting part of the author's reminiscences is the ordeal of a stolen sink. Imagine how scintillating a stolen sink can be, and you get an idea of the tone of the book. He does start to try to weave in a pseudo-spy story with built in Cuban femme fatales ("her voice purred through the phone"), but I think even he knows, nobody would buy it.

Secondly, there are exasperating long, long tangents, about his Italian father and his love of baseball, Haitian disaster relief and Venezuelan political turmoil, only thinly connected to the main subject of the book, which was meant to be Cuba. The author didn't seem pressed to research much regarding the legend of Fidel Castro and the NY Yankees, and misrepresents references to Karl Marx and George Orwell along the way. For what is meant to be an expose, it is handled rather clumsily.

By the time you get to the final chapters, and the period of normalization between the USA and Cuba (a time, it's important to note, several years after the author had already left Cuba), it's hardly worth the effort. He's merely reporting what millions of people could see for themselves. The book reads in parts as touting his adventure photojournalist bona fides, and in parts wanting to dispel myths that nobody really ever believed in the first place.

Technically, the editing could have been better, numerous repetitions and sloppy edits.

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Memoir and history

I've always been fascinated with Cuba. I hope someday to travel there. In the meantime, I read up what I can about the island and its people.

This is both a memoir of the author's stay in Cuba in 2009-2010 as well as the contemporary history of Cuba. David Ariosto interviews the Cuban commoner and tells us their personal story of the shop vendor, the maid, the taxi driver, the dissident in Miami. Ariosto knows the island well and interjects the listener with history and how it relates to Cubans today.

My only complaint is that he speaks rather fast at times, but you do get used to the pace.