Six months in Cuba, described with humor, integrity, and insight by
Miller (The Panama Hat Trail, 1986). Part of the pleasure here lies
in the obvious enjoyment Miller takes in "trading with the enemy."
(The title is drawn from the name of the US law that forbids
contact between North American citizens and their southern
neighbors; Miller, as a journalist, received a dispensation from
the ban.) The author brings his own enthusiasms along on his
journey, traveling for a while with a Cuban baseball team and
studying the oboe with a member of the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional.
Among Miller's many encounters with Cubans ranging from teachers to
cigar-makers to farmers, one of the most delightful is with Nitza
Villapol, a TV-personality known as "the Cuban Julia Child." At
first somewhat truculent, Villapol soon mellows, and when she is
reduced by food shortages to broadcasting recipes for such ersatz
dishes as "grapefruit rind 'steak,'" she wins our sympathy. Miller
also recounts his hilarious experiences visiting Havana's Jewish
community. As a Jew, he is in great demand at the city's two
synagogues: "For one brief moment," he writes a friend, "I was the
hottest Jew in Havana." Less happily diverting is his account of
the activities of the recently organized Rapid Action Brigades,
groups who go to suspected dissenters' homes to intimidate the
residents into conformity. A gracefully written, sympathetic, and
cleareyed look at the effects of the Cuban Revolution on ordinary
companneros. (Kirkus Reviews)
}Havana knew me by my shoes, begins Tom Millers lively and
entertaining account of more than eight months traveling through
Cuba, from coastal cities to mountain villages, from the Bay of
Pigs to both sides of the fence at Guantnamo, mixing with its
literati and black marketeers, its cane cutters and cigar rollers.
Granted unprecedented access to travel throughout the country, the
author presents us with a rare insight into one of the worlds only
Communist countries. Its best-known personalities and ordinary
citizens talk to him about the U.S. embargo and tell their favorite
Fidel jokes as they stand in line for bread at the Socialism or
Death Bakery. Miller provides a running commentary on Cubas food
shortages, exotic sensuality, and baseball addiction as he follows
the scents of Graham Greene, Jos Marti, Ernest Hemingway, and the
Mambo Kings. The result of this informed and adventurous journey is
a vibrant, rhythmic portrait of a land and people too long shielded
from American eyes. }
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