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Change looms in Havana, Cuba's capital, a city electric with uncertainty yet cloaked in cliché, 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, Santería 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.
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.