Monday, April 23, 2018
Books

Diplomat Vicki Huddleston talks books and U.S. relations with Cuba

Nightstand

Vicki Huddleston

Huddleston, 75, is the former chief of the United States Interests Section in Havana, and her report for the Brookings Institution about normalizing relations with Cuba was a blueprint for President Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening with Raúl Castro in 2014. She has just published her memoir, Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Fidel Castro’s Revolution, and will make two appearances in Tampa this week.

What books are you reading?

Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana by William M. LeoGrande. It puts things in context. It moves from Eisenhower and Kennedy through Obama. It shows various efforts Republicans and Democrats made to reach out to Cuba and establish a better relationship. I also have The Norton Book of Women’s Lives edited by Phyllis Rose. There are a lot of excerpts and stories from many women. She includes Maya Angelou and I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, Simone de Beauvoir and Prime of Life, My Apprenticeship by Colette and The White Album by Joan Didion.

And then I’m also reading The Revenge of Geography by Robert C. Kaplan for a talk I will be giving. I also have Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. ... In Revenge of Geography, the point the author makes is a lot of politics is determined by the location of the country and the country’s desires to defend itself. For example, the ocean can be used to expand outward or it can be used as a barrier. Look at the heartland of Europe and how it has always been essential to any conquering power, whether it was when Russia tried to expand further down in Europe and to the Mideast or when Napoleon attempted to conquer most of Europe.

When was the moment you decided to write your memoir?

I was in Cuba, and I was driving on a Saturday, and at an intersection I saw some teenagers who needed a ride. I picked them up, several Cuban kids, and they realized the car was different than what they were used to seeing. They asked what kind of car it was, and I said it is a Ford Crown Victoria. They said, "Who are you?" I told them I was the chief of (the United States Interests Section in Havana) and then there was silence. I thought they would get out of the car. But instead, a young lady said, "Be our mother. Take us to Miami."

I thought then that those kids deserve a future in Havana, not Miami. They deserve a future in Cuba, and our policy, which I feel reinforces the Castro government, and certainly deprives them of a better life, should change. I thought that when I left foreign service, I would write about Cuba, and I would talk about the kids.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected]
Follow @Florida_PBJC.

Comments
Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, author of ‘True Fiction,’ talks Agatha Christie, and more

Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, author of ‘True Fiction,’ talks Agatha Christie, and more

NightstandLee GoldbergGoldberg, the author of 30 books, has also been a writer and producer for several TV shows, including Monk and Diagnosis Murder. His new novel is True Fiction, an Ian Ludlow mystery. When we caught up with him by phone recently ...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Events: SunLit Festival concludes with Jack Kerouac event, Antiquarian Book Fair and more

Events: SunLit Festival concludes with Jack Kerouac event, Antiquarian Book Fair and more

Book Talk The fourth annual SunLit Festival concludes today with these events. For information, go to facebook.com/sunlitfestival or keepstpetelit.org/sunlit-festival. All events are in St. Petersburg. • 37th annual Florida Antiquarian Book F...
Published: 04/20/18
Review: Gilbert King’s ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ a compelling, horrifying look at Florida’s racist history

Review: Gilbert King’s ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ a compelling, horrifying look at Florida’s racist history

If Willis McCall were a fictional character, he’d be too far over the top to be believable. Readers (and editors) would scoff that no one could be such a monster of violent, unabashed racism — and get away with it for so long. But McCall...
Published: 04/20/18
Notable: Advice-givers write about their own life choices

Notable: Advice-givers write about their own life choices

NotableSince you askedThree women whose jobs involve giving advice write about navigating their own life choices.Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions From a Modern Advice Columnist (Grand Central) by Meredith Goldstein, the Love Letters columnist...
Published: 04/20/18
Rachel Slade talks books, magic hands in the library and the sinking of El Faro

Rachel Slade talks books, magic hands in the library and the sinking of El Faro

NightstandRachel SladeIn her new book, Into the Raging Sea, Slade gives an in-depth account of the tragic sinking of the El Faro, the Jacksonville-based container ship plummeted to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Joaquin. While rese...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

Book review: James Comey wants to explain himself

In 2016, as the director of the FBI, James Comey publicly dissected Hillary Clinton’s email server controversy. Later, we learned that Comey was keeping to himself the beginnings of an investigation into Russia’s active interference in the U.S. elect...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Review: Richard Powers’ ‘Overstory’ an ever-branching story of humans and trees

Review: Richard Powers’ ‘Overstory’ an ever-branching story of humans and trees

Henry David Thoreau once heaved a big stone against the trunk of a chestnut tree to bring down a shower of nuts. He loved their sweet meat, but the meal filled him with guilt. "It is worse than boorish, it is criminal, to inflict an unnecessary injur...
Published: 04/18/18
Florida historian Jack E. Davis wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Gulf’’

Florida historian Jack E. Davis wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘The Gulf’’

Florida got a shoutout from the Pulitzer Prizes on Monday: The 2018 literary prize for history was awarded to University of Florida professor Jack E. Davis for his book The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea.Davis, who grew up in Pinellas County and...
Published: 04/16/18
Notable: Lose yourself in books that reimagine tales and legends

Notable: Lose yourself in books that reimagine tales and legends

NotableLegends 2.0Three new books offer striking reimaginings of the tales and legends of different cultures. Children of Blood and Bone (Henry Holt and Co.) by Tomi Adeyemi is a debut YA novel of epic magical adventure with characters based on the O...
Published: 04/13/18
Hey, book lovers: SunLit Festival continues with events aplenty

Hey, book lovers: SunLit Festival continues with events aplenty

Lots of things to do for literary-minded folks in Tampa Bay, and most of them are free.
Published: 04/12/18