Miami

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

Robert

Didion is marvelous with using detail to tell a story. "Miami" is not exactly what I expected. Rather than a cultural study of Miami of the 80s similar to what she did for California with "The White Album," this well-researched book drills into the Cuban communities of Miami, and tells some of the intersected stories of private sector foreign policy in Central America and the Caribbean during the Reagan years.

Peter

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

Kirsten

After finishing my history course, I would be a lot more interested in reading this again and seeing what I would gain from it. I was simply not in the know enough to understand the parallels she was drawing at the time.

Simon

Read this in the months preceding my move to Miami. It did give me some sense of the city, but I have to say that on the basis of this book, and numerous articles by her in the NYRB, I just don't get why people love Joan Didion so much.

Anita

fascinating read.

Lynn

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.

Myra

A fascinating account of the Cuban exiles in Miami and their impact on American foreign policy.

Christopher

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.

Jlawrence

Didion continues to be my favorite non-fiction author. The precision of her language matches the precision of her analysis, whether she's describing on the micro scale of how minute gestures of an interviewee reveal their worldview, or the macro scale of Washington politics in the Reagan era. Here (circa '87) she's plumbing the gulf between Miami's Cuban and Anglo populations, and the complicated relation of Cuban anti-Castro militants to Washington, "la lucha" (the struggle) and each other. Many fascinating characters, stories, counter-stories and observations.In her earlier book Salvador, I think Didion allowed the terrifying absurdities she witnessed to overcome her willingness to analyze. Here, though she is still dealing with complicated and murky subject matter, she emerges with some clear conclusions about how Washington's abstractions create its own monsters, and there's a chilling and prophetic underlining of this when, in a Washington conservative think-tank presentation about rolling back the Soviet empire ('87, remember), she notes the character of Jack Wheeler drumming up support for the Islamic mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan.

Linda

Always elegant language from Ms Didion. Lots of names I didn't recognize or might have recognized had I read this in the late 80's(book came out in 1987) I guess I wish she had written an updated version. Having just been to Cuba I wanted to get a feeling for the other people, the exiles. Almost 30 years have passed, it's not that this book is no longer relevant but it is not the right book to explore where we are now in the Cuba/Miami world

Jessica

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.

Alison

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."

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?

Jessica Gartner

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

Frank

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.

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