Ada Ferrer, "Cuba: An American History" (Scribner, 2021)

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“No country is ever just one thing.” In her new book Cuba: An American History (Scribner, 2021), NYU historian Ada Ferrer shows this again and again. In clear and engaging prose, Ferrer narrates five centuries of history from a decidedly different angle than previous one-volume studies; the main drivers of history in this book are not just familiar political figures and abstract historical forces, but a whole range of typically marginalized historical actors. Ferrer integrates the voices of the enslaved, ordinary Cubans, and her own family to reimagine what it means to tell the history of the island. Part of this reimagining also involves showing the many points of convergence between the history of the United States and Cuba. Ferrer uses many anecdotes—such as the story of the inauguration of a Vice President of the United States on a sugar plantation in Cuba—to suggest how the lines between Cuban and American history were often blurred together. The result is a finely crafted and deeply personal book that encourages readers to recognize Cuba’s contested past and its multiple identities.

Steven P. Rodriguez is a PhD Candidate in history at Vanderbilt University. You can reach him at steven.p.rodriguez@vanderbilt.edu and follow his twitter at @SPatrickRod.

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