Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country

"Sometimes one doesn't leave to go outside, but to go inside," writes Carlos Manuel Álvarez in the essay that opens Leila Guerriero's anthology Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writers on Continuity and Change in Havana and Across the Country. In the collection, Argentine journalist and author Guerriero (A Simple Story) compiles perspectives of both insiders and outsiders on the ideologies and idiosyncrasies of modern-day Cuba.

Guerriero offers a collage of viewpoints; journalists, authors, actors and artists construct a spirited, spiritual portrait of a country in constant flux. The essayists write of passion, progress, pain and poverty. They consider love of country and love of baseball. They meditate on the famous Tropicana and the dancers who graced its stage, and the taxi drivers and sex workers ubiquitous on Havana's streets. They reckon with the choice to stay or go. They crack jokes, get personal and get political--all in different, but meaningfully wrought, ways.

Views on Fidel Castro vary. The shifting relationship between Cuba and the United States figures largely in the conversation; some laud what they see as progress, while others view the same developments with ambivalence or even disgust.

Guerriero acknowledges the contradictions and themes that arise throughout, as well as the impossibility of comprehensively explaining what "Cuba" is or was or means. Still, her anthology admirably weaves the common and uncommon threads of a culture's fabric into a complex whole, cohesive but complicated, replete with beautiful detail. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

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