cover image This Is Cuba: An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow

This Is Cuba: An American Journalist Under Castro’s Shadow

David Ariosto. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-17697-4

In this hybrid of literary memoir and investigative reporting, journalist Ariosto narrates his yearly trips to Cuba, starting in 2009, to explore the country’s rapidly changing economic and cultural landscape under Raul Castro’s rule. The book includes an abbreviated version of roughly 60 years of hostility between Cuba and the U.S. (including the trade embargo, the millions of U.S. tax dollars spent promoting democracy in Cuba, and the 1999 return of six-year-old Elian Gonzalez to his Cuban father). Ariosto also illustrates day-to-day life, vividly describing Cubans’ baseball obsession, the “steamy salvation” of cafecito, and the local color (“Crackling old radios and the brassy tunes of street musicians seeped through courtyards and down cobblestone alleyways”). He explains the black market, the convoluted dual currency system, and the slow advancement of internet access. In the later chapters, he turns to the careful negotiations of the détente coordinated by President Obama and Raul Castro, and speculates about Cuba’s future under Castro’s replacement, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Ariosto is on a mission to discover authenticity, a relatively subjective idea, but he does not idealize Cuba, and he is refreshingly aware of his privilege as a white American man. With his firsthand experience, Ariosto brings modern Cuba to life, with all its complexities and eccentric charms. Agent: Peter Riva, International Transactions. (Dec.)