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Summary

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE IN HISTORY

WINNER OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE IN HISTORY 

“Full of…lively insights and lucid prose” (The Wall Street Journal) an epic, sweeping history of Cuba and its complex ties to the United States—from before the arrival of Columbus to the present day—written by one of the world’s leading historians of Cuba. 

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, where a momentous revolution had taken power three years earlier. For more than half a century, the stand-off continued—through the tenure of ten American presidents and the fifty-year rule of Fidel Castro. His death in 2016, and the retirement of his brother and successor Raúl Castro in 2021, have spurred questions about the country’s future. Meanwhile, politics in Washington—Barack Obama’s opening to the island, Donald Trump’s reversal of that policy, and the election of Joe Biden—have made the relationship between the two nations a subject of debate once more. 

Now, award-winning historian Ada Ferrer delivers an “important” (The Guardian) and moving chronicle that demands a new reckoning with both the island’s past and its relationship with the United States. Spanning more than five centuries, Cuba: An American History provides us with a front-row seat as we witness the evolution of the modern nation, with its dramatic record of conquest and colonization, of slavery and freedom, of independence and revolutions made and unmade. 

Along the way, Ferrer explores the sometimes surprising, often troubled intimacy between the two countries, documenting not only the influence of the United States on Cuba but also the many ways the island has been a recurring presence in US affairs. This is a story that will give Americans unexpected insights into the history of their own nation and, in so doing, help them imagine a new relationship with Cuba; “readers will close [this] fascinating book with a sense of hope” (The Economist). 

Filled with rousing stories and characters, and drawing on more than thirty years of research in Cuba, Spain, and the United States—as well as the author’s own extensive travel to the island over the same period—this is a stunning and monumental account like no other.

©2021 Ada Ferrer. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

Critic reviews

"[Alma Cuervo]'s a highly empathetic interpreter of Ferrer's narrative. The story is fascinating, enlightening, and often deeply moving as Cuervo recounts Cuba's sorry history of racial division, enslavement, and exploitation - most vividly, the crushing labor of its sugar plantations." (AudioFile Magazine)

What listeners say about Cuba (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize)

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  • S. O.
  • 25-11-21

Fantastic!

This is an incredible well written, researched, and read book. I found it to be very thoughtful and always interesting. I highly recommend the book if you love history in general, Cuba, or looking for information on Latin American studies.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Derek & Amber Witt
  • 14-04-22

US Bash Job

If you want to hear why EVERY issue in Cuba that ever has been, currently is, or ever will be is a direct result of evil “imperialism” of the United States, this is your book! I loathe when supposed history authors are more focused on spreading personal bias and opinions than sharing the in-biased truth with readers.

11 people found this helpful

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  • James Standish
  • 01-02-22

Delightfully free of the usual recriminations

Ferrer does a great job of putting the Cuban / US conflict into the context of North American history. She gives a clear account of Cubans’ thirst for independence from Spain and then the US and the almost inevitable lurch toward socialist autocracy.

10 people found this helpful

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  • jimmy bernardez
  • 28-09-21

revealing Truth

The book was well done chronicly
and Brings about an understanding of Cuba in the pass to present Day relations with the United States and leaves Room for stimulating independent thinking for a honest assessment of a truthful and fair solution ,To a 100 year plus problem with the United States.

8 people found this helpful

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  • matt klenke
  • 01-04-22

Cuba, a history by Castro

Written in a socialist voice, I had hoped the narrative would be balanced, instead the book is really an expansion of a Castro speech

7 people found this helpful

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  • E Kyle StClaire jr
  • 27-11-21

Precise and with deep meaning.

She writes as a poet and a story teller reading to her class. This is an historian of quality and clarity. Fascinating and lucid. Most enjoyable.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Sergio Herrera
  • 14-03-22

Good read, but biased

The book was good but biased . If one is not Cuban you would think that only colored people were instrumental in Cuban history. This simply is not the case. As a Cuban who fled cuba myself as a child in 1967 to Miami on a freedom flight I lived some parts of the book. This book although a good read left much to be desired.

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  • Damian
  • 08-03-22

Hackneyed and Insufferablywoke…

I could not begin to finish this virtue signaling screed. Farrar failed to get out of the first chapter without relentlessly repeating the tired platitudes of “Columbus called the new land, (city, island, whatever…fill in the blank) Even though the natives had already named it…again, fill in the blank.” Who cares? Or this hoary revisionism: “Columbus did not discover America…the natives already knew where they were.“… C’mon! But it doesn’t end there. Then On to the catch words of “genocide” “imperialism” etc.. liberally seasoned - so to speak- with this kind of ridiculous admonishment: “Columbus set sail again….without a single woman.“The entire apologist agenda. REALLY?!? Grow up. Give me the history, not your editorial.

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  • James Messelbeck
  • 28-09-21

US historical marvels wrapped in cuban history

I have been on a quest to understand how the Dulles brothers, fierce hawks to prevent communism from overtaking Vietnam, permitted Cuba to become communist. this book helped my new understanding - specifically how CIA's Bay of Pigs debacle coupled with the "missile crisis" largely constrained US adventurism to overcome Fidel's revolution.
I appreciated the balanced perspective from an author involved in this story at a cellular/genetic level.
I believe her evident frustration with the static political situation is, largely, due to US indifference to Cuba today. Of course this is sadly regrettable given how our neighbor, no longer military threat, would benefit from neighborly behavior today.
I regret Ms. Ferrer did not discuss how relations were further complicated by the microwave attacks directed at the nascent US embassy.

4 people found this helpful

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  • The Frog Lady
  • 07-04-22

Enlightening history of US-Cuban relationship

This book provides a history of Cuba from the arrivals of the first Europeans until the start of the Biden presidency. I had almost no idea of most of this topic beyond a cursory familiarity with what we call the Spanish -American War but which to Cubans was really a hard fought rebellion against the Spanish, with Americans swooping in at the last minute to take over. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had no idea about the rest of the long struggle of the Cubans for independence or of the multiracial character of those rebellions prior to when Castro came on the scene.

The author provides useful background on the social and economic evolution of Cuban life, but the book's overall emphasis is on the way that the US repeatedly intervened. The biggest section of the book covers the period from the start of the revolution in the early 1950s to now. I thought I knew this period pretty well but I still learned a lot about how the US and the USSR and the Cuban government interacted and intervened. My previous impression that the US kept trying to overthrow the government, often using misinformation to impel the efforts, was confirmed, but I also gained a more nuanced understanding of the miss-steps of both the Cuban government and the USSR.
I also found out a lot about the Cuban military action in Africa and how Africans regarded the Cubans.
The book is well written and easy to follow. It's worth the time that it takes to listen to the whole thing.

3 people found this helpful