Havana is Cuba’s soul: a mix of Third World, First World, and Other World. After over a decade of visits as a teacher, researcher, and friend, Karen Dubinsky looks past political slogans and tourist postcards to the streets, neighbourhoods, and personalities of a complicated and contradictory city. Her affectionate, humorous vignettes illustrate how Havana’s residents—old Communist ladies, their sceptical offspring, musicians, underground vendors, entrepreneurial landlords, and poverty-stricken professors—go about their daily lives.
As Cuba undergoes dramatic change, there is much to appreciate, and learn from, in the unlikely world Cubans have collectively built for themselves.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Queen’s University Student Overseas Travel Fund - The Sonia Enjamio Fund, which funds Cuban/Canadian student exchange.
Karen Dubinsky started visiting Cuba in 1978, and has lived in Havana intermittently since 2004. She is a professor in the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University and co-teaches a course in Havana for Queen’s students. She is the author of The Second Greatest Disappointment: Honeymooning and Tourism at Niagara Falls.
Karen Dubinsky’s portraits of life in Cuba are indeed beyond the beach and other worn caricatures. Her observations provide an immensely satisfying read and still whet the appetite for more. From the first chapter, she brings the reader into an encounter with Cuba that is fascinating, intriguing, and pulsing with the beauty of life in all its complexity.
Karen Dubinsky’s book is entertaining, educating, anecdotal and a pleasure to pick up and read. She gets the Cuban psyche head on. She knows so much about Cuba yet understands that the more you think you understand Cuba, the less you really know. This is an ultimate travel preparatory book. As practically a Havana resident, I still learned and revelled on shared experiences.
With a trained eye for the devil in the details and a lover’s enthusiasm for the music, Karen Dubinsky distills memory and research into an up-to-date, insider-outsider portrait of this exceptional place. She sketches out a wealth of details that capture the surrealism of daily life in Cuba and will inform tomorrow’s historians. Cuba beyond the Beach rings true and reads fast.
Cuba beyond the Beach goes beyond boundaries: it’s a carefully composed mixture of travel book, city memoir, and stimulating reflections on a changing Cuba. Dubinsky succeeds in weaving together her astute observations on daily life in Havana with insights from Cuban studies, politics, and culture. This blend succeeds in explaining the bizarre realities of a complicated country in a refreshing way. By bringing Cuban approaches to social problems, such as crime, income inequality, and housing, into dialogue with outside solutions Dubinsky puts things into perspective and evades the all-too-common praise or vilification of socialist Cuba. She shows us that Cuba is neither socialist utopia nor communist hell, but an incubator for ingenuity. I recommend this book to anyone who seeks to better understand this awfully charming country and its people— and actually learn something from them.
By cutting away at the debilitating romance, clichés, and dense propaganda that often characterizes narratives about Cuba, this wonderfully rich book provides the reader with a rare glimpse into a Cuba that continues to capture our imaginations, even as we somewhat nervously witness its dramatic history unfold.
Cuba beyond the Beach is one of those books that should be devoured by everyone interested in that mysterious island, and anyone else who simply enjoys a great read.
Dubinsky’s realistic sense of humour lets her see a Havana that re-evolutionizes, re-invents, and re-circulates everyone in the underground studio of our daily life.
In Cuba beyond the Beach Karen Dubinsky has captured the ethos of Cuba and Cubans. This work is a tour de force.
Cuba beyond the Beach is the perfect introduction to Cuba for travellers truly interested in seeing the island beyond the beach and beyond the clichés. Even those who have visited before will learn more about the history and present of the fascinating, vibrant, and perplexing city that is Havana.