Just 90 miles from Key West, Cuba has had a long and complicated relationship with the United States. (The Spanish-America War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and The Bay of Pigs Invasion come to mind). This often fraught relationship has been the source material inspiring many books and movies about the country and its people. The recent easing of the borders between both countries has generated renewed interest in Cuba.
Biographies about José Martí, (1853-1895), the influential Cuban poet and patriot include “José Martí: Cuban Patriot and Poet” by David Goodnough and John M Kirk’s “José Martí, Mentor of the Cuban Nation.” The library has Marti’s “Prosa Y Poesía” available in Spanish as an e-audio book on the Hoopla database, as well as his novel, “Le Edad de Oro” (also in Spanish).
Read the story of Teddy Roosevelt and the Battle of San Juan Hill in “Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream” by Gregg R. Jones, and Roosevelt’s own account “The Rough Riders,” originally published in Scribner’s Magazine. In April 1961, a brigade of about 1,500 CIA-trained soldiers stormed the beach in Cuba’s Bay of Pigs in a disastrous secret mission to overthrow Fidel Castro. “The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs” by Jim Rasenberger reads more like a thriller than a history book. A different perspective on the Bay of Pigs debacle is related in the Spanish language book “La Patria Nos Espera: La Invasión de Bahía de Cochinos Relatada en Las Palabras de la Brigada de Asalto 2506” by Dr. Victor Andres Triay. In “Six Days in Havana” James Michener describes the people he met and interviewed while researching Cuba 30 years after the revolution, for his novel “Caribbean.”
Interested in more novels set in Cuba? Adventure and suspense abound with James Bond in Ian Fleming’s “Man with the Golden Gun,” Margaret Truman’s “Murder in Havana,” Dennis LeHane’s “Live by Night,” Stuart Kaminsky’s “Hard Currency” and Clive Cussler’s “Havana Storm.” “The Boy Who Said No: An Escape to Freedom,” by Patti Sheehy, is a novel based on the true story of Frank Mederos, who was born and raised in Cuba. Frank despises the new Castro regime and after being drafted into the Army’s Special Forces is determined to seek his freedom in the United States. Cristina Garcia has written several popular books about Cuban life and culture. Her first novel, “Dreaming in Cuban,” is described as the story of a family divided by politics and geography by the Cuban revolution.
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DVDs include the 1940 comedy “The Ghost Breakers” starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. Pre-revolutionary Cuba comes to life in the Robert Redford/Lena Olin film, “Havana.” “Cuba” with Sean Connery and “Lost City” with Andy Garcia, describe the revolutionary period. “Thirteen Days” relates the events of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Escape from Cuba is an important recurring theme in movies such as “Before Night Falls” describing poet Reinaldo Arenas’ escape to America. Social commentaries include the humorous “Guantanamera” in which a famous singer’s body is transported across Cuba, “Viva Cuba” a “Romeo and Juliet”-themed “road movie,” and the more serious “Azúcar Amarga” or “Bitter Sugar” about life under Castro in the 1990s.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Judy Mullen is the Assistant Supervisor at the Braden River Library.