Beautifully composed authentic vignettes about Cubans of all stripes.



Pungent snapshots of life in Cuba both before and after the death of Fidel Castro.

Cuban journalist Álvarez has an excellent facility with dialogue and story, showing readers the distinct personalities of a diverse swath of Cuban citizens. First published in 2017, the book opens with a tender transitional moment as Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries on Dec. 17, 2014. “This news,” writes the author, “is not as momentous to Americans as it is to Cubans. Hence the fact that the announcement leaves no gringos bewildered, wondering what is happening and what will happen next. Cubans, on the other hand—we who effortlessly make an epic of the everyday, who don’t hesitate to declare the slightest skirmish or governmental whim a historic event—are instantly eaten up by questions, and frantically searching for some kind of clarity in our neighbors’ opinions in a way we never have before.” Throughout, Álvarez renders multifaceted portraits of a wide variety of memorable characters: American fugitives from justice; José Contreras, the Yankees pitcher who was finally allowed to return to his home country; members of the breakout Cuban orchestra Los Van Van; Rafael Alcides, a revered dissident poet in seclusion; a butcher and other shopkeepers who have learned to squeeze out a living by working the black market; impoverished intellectuals and beleaguered performance artists; and those walking along Havana’s famed esplanade, the Malecón, where the author visited “to do battle with an age-old canard: the syrupy, sentimental claptrap that third-rate poets, hack journalists, and miserable minstrels have poured over the long wall that girdles the city’s entrails.” Most of the author’s subjects love their country despite suffering under an authoritarian system that has left them with meager wages, food scarcity, and significant emotional drain. Álvarez captures it all in a satisfyingly kaleidoscopic narrative portrait.

Beautifully composed authentic vignettes about Cubans of all stripes.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64445-090-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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