Tag Archives: Fidel Castro

Cook Books Take You South and Southwest

I like a cookbook that reads like a book–not an instruction manual.  For a cookbook with personality, read  The Sweet Life in Paris. When good writing accompanies recipes that make you want to start cooking NOW, you’ve got a winner. If you want to read a food blog with real personality, I recommend Peggy Bourjaily’s Almost Slow Food.

And if a cookbook explores a region in depth like the Dordogne, then you have the best of all worlds, a travel cookbook. Continue reading Cook Books Take You South and Southwest

Cuban Chinese African, Which Box Do They Check?

Destination: Cuba

Yan Zhenqing, great Chinese caligrapher. Photo from china pictures
Yan Zhenqing, great Chinese caligrapher. Photo from chinapictures

Book: Monkey Hunting

by Cristina Garcia

Perhaps with Fidel Castro fading from the scene and  a new administration in Washington, D.C., Americans will finally be able to travel to Cuba to see first hand what many have only read about in books.

If you are planning a future trip to Cuba, you have a good reason to read Cristina Garcia’s Monkey Hunting, (2003) which covers more than 100 years of Cuban history.  She introduced me to a culture of Chinese-African-Cubans that I never knew existed. Cuba has long been on my wish list of destinations, so this book was a must-read in my library.

The major theme of the book–racial identity–fits right in with a major cultural discussion in America today.  Barack Obama, widely described as the first black president, more accurately is the first obviously mixed-race president. I say ‘obviously’ because nearly everyone in this country carries some such mixture in his or her genes.

Callers to the NPR show, Talk of the Nation last December divided sharply on whether Obama’s self-identification as black does biracial people a disservice. You can listen to the program or read the transcript by following the link.

Garcia’s characters, four generations of a family that combines Chinese, Cuban and African strains, deal in various ways with the way people identify them and the way they choose to identify themselves.

Two lines of questions that I invite you to pursue in the comments here: Have you been to Cuba or is it on your wish list?

What are your thoughts about racial identity of mixed race people? Are we ready to eliminate those boxes all together?

Please leave a comment and continue the discussion on the newest addition to the traveler’s library.