Monday, September 5, 2011

Cuba 101: A picture is worth 2,310 pages

Earlier this week, I returned from a 10-day vacation in Guatemala (more on that on Twitter and here later).  I'm back on the blog and will be posting some juicy items in the coming days.

For now, I wanted to alert all Cuba-watchers that I'll be teaching a class during the fall semester entitled, "Cuban Culture and Society."  The photo above shows the 7 books (!) that I'm using in my class.  Thus, the picture is worth the 2,310 pages contained in these seven books.

Woe are my students!

I'd love to hear any reader feedback on my book choices.  As you can see from the photo, my books are:

1.  Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know. Julia E. Sweig. Oxford, 2009.
2.  The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro. Edited by Ann Louise Bardach and Luis Conte Aguero. Nation Books, 2007.
3.  Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today. Yoani Sanchez. Melville House, 2011.  You can to the publisher’s book website to view two subtitled videos of Sanchez describing her purpose in blogging and reading some of her posts aloud.
4.  Havana Fever. Leonardo Padura. Bitter Lemon Press, 2009. [The original Spanish novel is entitled, La neblina del ayer (2005)].
5.  Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana, and Washington. Ann Louise Bardach. Scribner, 2009.

And as supplements, I'm having my students read (but not purchase) selections from the following two books:

6.  Cuba: A Global Studies Handbook. Ted Henken. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2008.
7.  A Contemporary Cuba Reader: Reinventing the Revolution. Edited by Phil Brenner, Marguerite Rose Jimenez, John M. Kirk, and William M. Leo Grande. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

For those interested, you can go HERE to take a look at my full syllabus!

As a teaser for those who wish they were still in college, here are two of the assignments I have planned for the semester:

Q&A with Cuban Bloggers live on Radio Marti: On Thursday, September 22, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Radio Marti, together with will have an interactive exchange with Cuban bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Miriam Celaya, Dagoberto Valdes, and Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo via telephone about the state of the internet in Cuba. (Radio Marti would like to include others, but some bloggers only have silence for Radio Marti...).  The conversation will take place live on the radio and live on the web page. The event will be an exchange of information of what technology is available in the island and how it can be supported, enhanced, and assisted. Based on class readings, all students have to come up with a single, well-developed question they will ask the bloggers themselves live on the air!

Writing Assignment – Fidel’s letters and Yoani’s blog: During the semester students will read two surprisingly similar books by two very different authors: The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro and Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez. Each book is both deeply personal and sharply political. The first one collects the personal letters that a very young Fidel Castro (just 25 years old at the time) wrote from prison between December 1953 and May 1955. The other collects various posts from the blog “Generation Y” by the young cyber-activist Yoani Sanchez (just over 30 years old when she began blogging) written between April 2007 and December 2010. In their writings, both Castro and Sanchez describe with rich detail Cuba’s many problems (chief of which is a dictatorial political system) and pose possible solutions.

The students' task in this 7-8 page paper is to summarize, analyze, and compare and contrast each writer’s words and ideas. What are the chief problems faced by Cuba (in the 1950s and in the 2000s) according to each author and what does each one propose as solutions. How have the problems changed between each time period? How is each writer’s background and writing style similar and different? Finally, consider each writer’s use of their particular medium (letters vs. a blog) to communicate their ideas and garner support and solidarity from potential supporters. How do they relate to and negotiate with the authoritarian political atmosphere in which they operate? Finally, compare and contrast each writer’s relationship to forces, actors, supporters, and opponents outside of Cuba (especially the United States).

1 comment:

  1. I can't reconcile the choices you have made in reading material. I have enjoyed your blog and I respect your views, but I don't see your reading list as representative or indicative of Cuban culture, politics, history or literature. It seems to me that you are still just angry with having been tossed from the country and this is reflected in your book list. I don't think you "get it" relative to Cuba.