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Books As Bridges: Reading Cuba Now

As spring of 2017 turned into summer, our Destination of the Month series invited you to consider Cuba for your next vacation. The list of books we shared on our website included a unique collection of short stories, and the translator who assembled it found our page and wrote to say thanks. When I realized that he was the same person behind the North American release of a forthcoming novel I’d had my eye on, I responded. Back and forth the emails went, until I decided to lend him the Message in a Bottle forum so all of you could see why I was so interested.

–James

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Havana’s annual Book Fair, the week-long Feria Internacional del Libro, draws hundreds of thousands of people to the old Spanish colonial fortress called La Cabaña (built after the capture of the Cuban capital by the British in 1762 to make sure that no foreign power ever succeeded in such an assault again). The residents of Havana flock there each February for everything from lectures and roundtables to pizza, pencils, and pony rides, but most of all they come for books–Cuban books and foreign ones, mostly at subsidized prices, many available only at the Feria because they soon sell out. Nearly half a million books were sold at the most recent Fair ... continued