Pearsall's Books

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Favorite Books of 2004 (That I Haven't Reviewed Yet), Part Two

Continuing from my previous post, here's another two of my favorite reads from this year (that I haven't reviewed yet). I'll get up to ten!

Phillip Gourevitch We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda - In 1994 the Central African nation of Rwanda experienced the fastest genocide in human history. In the space of a mere 100 days over 800,000 members of the Tutsi ethnic group were slaughtered by the majority Hutus (who also killed moderate Hutus who were against the massacres). In this powerful book Phillip Gourevitch, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, retraces how Hutu extremists had carefully planned the genocide, how they had used propaganda to create an atmosphere conducive to mass killing, and finally, when the time came, how they had unleashed the forces they had built up. It is also a meditation on ethnic extermination as a means of binding communities, as well as a look at the history of Rwanda, and the total failure of the United Nations and the leading Western nations to do anything about the genocide once it had begun.

Anne Louise Bardach Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana - In the 1950's Miami was a Deep South backwater, a minor city. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 changed that forever. Over the next several decades over a million Cubans would flee to South Florida (primarily from Cuba's white middle and upper classes), and these refugees were the driving force behind Miami's transformation from a minor Southern city into a major Latin American metropolis. This entertaining book is about the resulting cleavages between los exilados and the Cubans on the island, divisions that erupted into the minds of the rest of America with the Elian Gonzalez furore. Bardach discusses Cuban history, the links between Fidel Castro (a child of the Cuban bourgeoisie) and leaders of the exile community such as Jorge Mas Canosa, the role of race in Cuban society (particularly events such as the massacres of 1912), the authoritarian nature of the exile leadership (whose tactics of denunciation of dissidence mirror those Castro uses), support for terrorist violence against the Cuban regime, the changing nature of life on the island and how it has diverged from the 'Cuba of the mind' that so many exiles still dream of, and the antipathy of the pre-existing American communities of 'Anglos' (aka non-Hispanic whites) and African-Americans in Miami to the newcomers.

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