Change looms in Havana, Cuba's capital, a city electric with uncertainty yet cloaked in cliche, 90 miles from U.S. shores and off-limits to most Americans. Journalist Julia Cooke, who lived there at intervals over a period of five years, discovered a dynamic scene: baby-faced anarchists with Mohawks gelled with laundry soap, whiskey-drinking children of the elite, Santeria trainees, pregnant prostitutes, university graduates planning to leave for the first country that will give them a visa.
This last generation of Cubans raised under Fidel Castro animate life in a waning era of political stagnation as the rest of the world beckons: waiting out storms at rummy hurricane parties and attending raucous drag cabarets, planning ascendant music careers and black-market business ventures, trying to reconcile the undefined future with the urgent today.
Eye-opening and politically prescient, "The Other Side of Paradise" offers a deep new understanding of a place that has so confounded and intrigued us.
About the Author
Julia Cooke is a freelance journalist and teacher who has lived in and reported from Mexico City and Havana. She has received fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center and Columbia University, where she completed her master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing. Her essays about Cuba have been published in "Conde Nast Traveller," the "Virginia Quarterly Review," and "The Best Women s Travel Writing" anthology, among numerous newspapers and magazines. She is fluent in Spanish.
Cooke grew up in Portland, Oregon, and now lives in New York City, where she writes and teaches at the New School. "The Other Side of Paradise" is her first book.
Cooke introduces a world that somehow makes sense in its lack of reason, as understood by American readers. An excellent taste of Cuba today, without tourist plans or political agenda.”
"This irresistible gander at Cuba today features the liveliest prose and the sharpest eye for detail. The contradictions and improvisatory adjustments within this strange society are brought home through a series of vital portraits by the author, Julia Cooke, whose sympathy never gets in the way of her search for the elusive truth."
"With top-notch reporting and an eye for detail, Cooke dives deeply into post-Fidel Cuba to deliver an intimate, exuberant, poignant account of lives spent waiting for change."
Elisabeth Eaves, author of Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents
"In a series of nimble profiles, Cooke expertly documents what is likely to be the last generation of the lost youth of Cubathe teens of the transition, with all their contradictions, sorrows, and calluses. The Other Side of Paradise is a tear-through read, full of vitality and compassion."
Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution