What’s Next? Reviews of Books on Cuba
by Doug Igelsrud

Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know
Julia E. Sweig, Oxford University Press, 2009

Although Julia Sweig is a staff person at the Council on Foreign Relations, her first trip to Cuba was with Fidel’s friend Saul Landau when she was a student at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The CFR hired Sweig for her broad knowledge of Cuban history.

Written in question/answer format, Cuba is an informed and honest review of Cuba’s history and its relationship with the United States. Sweig believes US-Cuba policy is driven by US domestic concerns and serves neither Cuban nor US interests.

Last August I encountered Sweig at “Cuba Week” at the Chautauqua Institute; she was one of the program organizers.  For interviews with some of the presenters, including the former Canadian ambassador to Cuba, check feeds.feedburner.com/chautauquapodcasts/. Excellent stuff!

Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana, and Washington
Ann Louise Bardach, Scribner, 2009

Veteran Cuba journalist Ann Louise Bardach’s Without Fidel is a fascinating sequel to her earlier, Cuba Confidential – which among other things gave a detailed description of key Cuban figures. According to Bardach, she was denied entry into Cuba for the sequel, not because of her political analysis, but because she had gotten too personal reporting about Castro’s private life. 

Without Fidel presents an extensive account of Castro’s epic struggle to survive his potentially fatal encounter with peritonitis (abdominal infection). It also provides more information about his personal life and about his current health and role in governing the country. It describes in detail the “far right” in Miami and their impact on US-Cuba policy; it includes profiles of CIA-trained terrorists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. Excellent objective journalism.  

Dateline Havana: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
Reese Erlich, PoliPoint Press, 2009

Dateline Havana is introduced by Stephen Kinzer and is recommended by Walter Cronkite and Margaret Randall. Erlich has been reporting on Cuba since 1968 when he was writing for “Ramparts” magazine and a member of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). He provides detailed profiles of all the key players in US-Cuba policy as well as information about Cuban life today. (One of his interviews is with a friend of mine, a percussionist with the National Symphony of Cuba.) Erlich also profiles members of the dissident community living in Cuba and concludes with a chapter, “Prospects for Change.”


Doug has been to Cuba five times between 1992 and 2003 and has friends there. Locally, he supports Pastors for Peace’s many visits to Syracuse as part of their Friendshipments to Cuba. For more information go to www.pastorsforpeace.org