ISBN: 0679781803
ISBN 13: 9780679781806
By: Joan Didion

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About this book

It is where Fidel Castro raised money to overthrow Batista and where two generations of Castro's enemies have raised armies to overthrow him, so far without success. It is where the bitter opera of Cuban exile intersects with the cynicism of U.S. foreign policy. It is a city whose skyrocketing murder rate is fueled by the cocaine trade, racial discontent, and an undeclared war on the island ninety miles to the south. As Didion follows Miami's drift into a Third World capital, she also locates its position in the secret history of the Cold War, from the Bay of Pigs to the Reagan doctrine and from the Kennedy assassination to the Watergate break-in. Miami is not just a portrait of a city, but a masterly study of immigration and exile, passion, hypocrisy, and political violence.

Reader's Thoughts


Some of the themes seem a little dated now, twenty-years later. Some things about the Cuban exile view both across the Florida Strait and back over their collective shoulder at the rest of North American haven't changed at all. And should it? After all, Fidel still lives.


I actually picked this book up before I recent trip to Miami and read it on the way back on the plane. It felt a little dated (it pubed in 1987) but Joan Didion's writing made for enjoyable reading, especially her descriptions of Miami's languid, underwater feel. The chronicling of particular Miami residents' lives, particularly of Cuban-Americans & African Americans, was eye-opening. Growing up in 80's these stories seemed somehow imbedded in my brain w/out me knowing it. The only thing keeping this from five would be towards the end of the the piece which, in my opinion, slips a bit too much into speculation and peters out in a Reagan diatribe (well deserved, just a bit boring).


Sadly, it's too late for me to grow up to be Joan Didion. She does shit with commas that should be illegal all in fifty states, makes it work, and then stands in tropical humid heat, smoking calmly, without breaking a sweat.If I weren't already dreaming of a move to Miami, this book might have nudged me in that direction. It's not really so much about Miami, per se, but about Cubans there in the eighties. I recommend it, if you're into that sort of thing.


For those of us who wonder about things. Read this essay. Short term goals come back to bite you. Afghanistan?


This one took me a while to get into. The narrative, if you will, is non-linear, opaque, and often confusing and contradictory sounding. But that's the point. Didion stirs a tropical cauldron of politics, actions, laments, lies and reversals. The end result is a heat-dream snapshot of a Miami often closer culturally to Cuba than America.

Jessica Gartner

The first line of this book is one of my favorite sentences.


fascinating read.


It seems like it's cheating to rate a book when I didn't actually finish it, but I read about 75% of it. I really enjoyed the first few chapters that were a bit more sociological about North America's only truly Latin American city (for instance, in 1987, only 23% of the population in Miami spoke English as a first language), but it soon began delving into so much of the history of American-Cuban relations that I just got lost. I tried very hard to keep up, but after 100 pages or so of what basically read as so much gibberish it might as well have been written in Spanish, I gave up. A great book for someone who already has a pretty good grasp on Cuban history, and is intimately familiar with the Bay of Pigs (and it might, actually, even help to know a bit more Spanish than I do). So maybe I'll go educate myself and return to this book at a later date and get a bit more out of it. I'll also add that I've just always struggled a little bit with Didion anyway, so it could be that I just don't care for her writing very much.

Bertha Leal

The amount of facts, names, and locations are somewhat cumbersome but what you get in return is a fascinating look behind the politics and history of Miami, all wrapped up in Didion's wonderful run-on-sentences style of writing. Having lived in Miami for nearly two decades I was surprised by how much I learned about this dynamic city in particular, and the Cuban exile in general.


The indispensable Didion turns her eagle-eyed gaze at the Cuban exile community in Miami in a story full of assimilation and assassination, neurotic nationalism and opportunistic anti-communism.


This book is probably more interesting being when it was written, but it has not aged that well.The parts about Miami are well done with the tie-in between the Cuban exiles and the Contras and the US government is well known by now so the book is not that much revelation so many years after the fact.

Taylor Kate Brown

“begins: Havana vanities come to dust in Miami.” Joan Didion writes without a single wasted word and is the master of grammatically correct run-on sentences. She does justice to a city I barely know anything about, so much so that I feel the South Florida humidity on my forehead.I’m shocked that nearly 200 pages of political intrigue surround U.S. foreign policy in Latin America from 1960 to 1980 could be so… sexy?


After reading Miami, I wished that Joan Didion would write about everything. It seems the perfect way to get information. Miami was described as a novel on the dust jacket, but it isn't one. There is a strong flow through her description of facts and events-- so reading it put me in a mood that made me feel like I was reading a novel. Joan Didion spent time in Miami for several years, and she writes about the things that interest her: the biggest sense of the city's feeling, the patterns of power, journalistic storytelling and humiliation.

Jodi Farrell

One of the best books written about Miami. She nails The Miami Herald and the Cuban community.


I really enjoyed this book, which was nothing if not well researched and structured. I appreciated how Didion started small, with the city itself, and grew the book outward, to encompass not just Cuba but other Central and South American countries, as well as other American cities, especially Washington. Her picture of interconnectedness was fabulous, and her diction also great. She used a great deal of repetition in both word and phrase, which I appreciated, as she I'd it when the emphasis was most dire - and it often was.There were a few things I wasn't crazy about. Mainly, her penchant for separating the main sentence with a million dependent clauses, especially in sentences that were often a paragraph, even a page, long. Several times in each chapter, these sentences were so convoluted that in lost her train of thought and had to reread sections. While her points were always valuable, they were muddled.I also wasn't crazy for the title, and I wondered if it was chosen more for marketing reasons than anything else - that a book with a one-word title would seem less academic, more NYT best seller. Because the book was about more, and less, than Miami. It was about very specifically Cuban emigre Miami. Other races, ethnicities, and cultures were referred to only insofar as they related to the Cuban experience. And while I think that is fine, as it created an extremely interesting book, I feel like the title is misleading of subject. It should have either had a subtitle, or been called something more like "Cuban Miami."

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