Tuesday, July 17, 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
Tampa Bay Rowdies player Hunter Gorskie is reading about better nights and mornings

Tampa Bay Rowdies player Hunter Gorskie is reading about better nights and mornings

Hunter GorskieBecause soccer fans around the world will be watching the FIFA World Cup’s crowning game today, we decided to touch base with one of our own soccer players: Hunter Gorskie, the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ No. 27. Gorskie, a defender who played c...
Published: 07/13/18
Lori Roy’s novel ‘The Disappearing’ draws from Florida’s Dozier and Ted Bundy

Lori Roy’s novel ‘The Disappearing’ draws from Florida’s Dozier and Ted Bundy

TIERRA VERDEAuthor Lori Roy has lived in Florida since 1996, but it wasn’t until her fourth novel that she wrote a story set in the state. "I just wrote an essay for CrimeReads on the intersection of Southern Gothic and crime fiction," Roy says. "You...
Published: 07/12/18
Review: St. Petersburg author Gale Massey deals a winning debut with ‘Girl From Blind River’

Review: St. Petersburg author Gale Massey deals a winning debut with ‘Girl From Blind River’

Life has dealt Jamie Elders a lousy hand. The 19-year-old wants nothing more than to get as far away as possible from her hometown, a bleak little corner of New York state called Blind River. But she’s stuck there. In the opening chapters of ...
Published: 07/06/18
‘Barracoon’ editor Deborah Plant on discovering Zora Neale Hurston, reading Alice Walker

‘Barracoon’ editor Deborah Plant on discovering Zora Neale Hurston, reading Alice Walker

Deborah PlantWe caught up with Plant, the editor of Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo," a newly published book by Zora Neale Hurston, after her recent appearance at the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center. The book is based on Hurs...
Published: 07/06/18

Book events: John Cinchett to discuss ‘Historic Tampa Churches’

Book TalkJohn Cinchett (Historic Tampa Churches) will discuss and sign his book at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.Teacher and author Rob Sanders reads from his new children’s book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and...
Published: 07/05/18
Poet Donald Hall’s ‘A Carnival of Losses,’ to be published after his death, offers essays on his life

Poet Donald Hall’s ‘A Carnival of Losses,’ to be published after his death, offers essays on his life

Donald Hall, a former U.S. poet laureate, died on June 23 at his home in Wilmot, N.H. He was 89. An influential poet for more than 60 years, the prolific Hall published more than 20 poetry collections as well as memoirs, fiction, essays, biographies,...
Updated one month ago
Review: Tommy Orange’s ‘There There’ a powerful portrait of urban Indian life

Review: Tommy Orange’s ‘There There’ a powerful portrait of urban Indian life

Every American is a child of immigrants.The only difference is how long ago your forebears came here from another land, by sail or steam, on foot or by jet engine, by choice or by enslavement.The clear winners of that contest, of course, are Native A...
Updated one month ago
Review: Look inside the tent of a Gibsonton-based sideshow in Tessa Fontaine’s memoir ‘The Electric Woman’

Review: Look inside the tent of a Gibsonton-based sideshow in Tessa Fontaine’s memoir ‘The Electric Woman’

Grief can unhinge us, disconnect us from our daily lives, make us do things we’ve never done. Grief made Tessa Fontaine run away and join the circus.To be more exact, the sideshow: World of Wonders, the last traditional traveling sideshow in the coun...
Updated one month ago