Friday, February 7, 2014


New Book Description

Whatever your ethnic background or personal opinion of Fidel Castro, you will find something new and revealing in this book.  It offers a frank firsthand account of one woman’s journey, not only through Cuba, but through a life filled with unique challenges and tragedies.  When Castro first rose to power, the author, like so many Americans, was entranced by the romantic vision of a scrubby revolutionary defeating the hated dictator Fulgencio Batista. But her years of direct experience with Cubans and within Cuba itself gradually eroded that vision. Then, unexpectedly, she found herself being attacked by a once close friend of Latino heritage, who not only vehemently disagreed with her negative evaluation of Castro’s reign, but harshly questioned her right as a non-Latina to even comment on it. He dubbed her “lazy” and a “nunny bunny,” a phony gringa do-gooder displaying lamentable “Republican-style self-exculpation,” summarily dismissing her decades of involvement in Cuban human rights as an Amnesty International volunteer. These very personal attacks triggered her own self-doubts, launching her onto a meticulous backward look over her entire life’s trajectory, especially her involvement with Latin America and Cuba. The result is Confessions of Secret Latina: How I Fell Out of Love with Castro & In Love with the Cuban People , a book going beyond the author’s previous award-winning memoir, Triumph & Hope: Golden Years with the Peace Corps in Honduras, bringing to light new details about a singular life that may surprise even those closest to her.

In Confessions, readers will meet real people, both dissidents and ordinary Cubans, as well as other Latin Americans encountered during the author’s 75 adventurous years. She was privileged to have had a front-row seat at pivotal events enabling her to meet important regional players while serving as an election observer in Chile, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Fluent in Spanish, she not only visited Cuba multiple times, beginning in the Batista years, but she had a Cuban foster son, Alex, an unaccompanied minor arriving during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, who died of AIDS in 1995, just one year after the death of her beloved son Andrew. This book recounts her emergence from that dual tragedy to resume her human rights work in Cuba and elsewhere, then joining the Peace Corps in Honduras in 2000 at age 62. Now working as a Spanish hospital and school interpreter, she continues her volunteer role with Amnesty International, coordinating human rights actions in the Caribbean, including Cuba, and in this most recent book recounts her recent meetings with Cuban dissidents finally allowed by the regime to travel.  Her life shows that even unsung individuals working quietly behind the scenes to carry out daily tasks can make a difference.

 Author Bio
Barbara E. Joe, MA, (last name thanks to a Korean father-in-law) is a Boston native and an alumna of the University of California, Berkeley. A mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she works as a freelance writer, Spanish interpreter, and translator out of her century-old house on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. An Amnesty International volunteer since 1981, she was a founding member of local Group 211 and has served in various national leadership positions, including 14 years as volunteer Cuba and Dominican Republic country specialist and the last ten years as volunteer coordinator for the Caribbean. She is also a member of the National Peace Corps Association and a board member of several non-profit organizations working internationally. She was an election observer in Chile, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.  In 2005, she received a UN Foundation award for her human rights work and, in 2006, she went on a humanitarian mission to south Sudan.  After the deaths of her older son and a Cuban foster son, she joined The Compassionate Friends, a bereaved parents’ support group, and also leads a Spanish-language parental bereavement support group.  She belongs to a small, intentional Catholic community called Communitas. From 2000-20003, she served as a health volunteer with the Peace Corps in Honduras and wrote an award-winning memoir, Triumph & Hope: Golden Years with the Peace Corps in Honduras (, Kindle, & Nook). She has also written articles about Cuba, Haiti, Romania, Sudan, and other countries visited for humanitarian reasons. She firmly believes in walking the walk, not only in talking the talk, expressing her ideals in action, not just in writing and speeches that exhort others to do so. In April 2011, she was featured in Woman’s Day and in August 2011 and April 2013 appeared on Voice of America News in internationally distributed videos. Readers are invited to view her blog,, where she posts comments about Washington, D.C., Cuba, and her annual humanitarian visits to Honduras. Her tenth humanitarian return trip to Honduras took place in 2014.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Independent Bookstore Event, March 2, 2014

Hello Folks, Now on the eve of my departure for Honduras, I've been invited to give a presentation
for my new book, Confessions of Secret Latina: How I Fell Out of Love with Castro & in Love with the Cuban People, on Sunday, March 2, at 4 pm at Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. I will stop there on my way home to Washington from Honduras. My plan is to invite two people profiled in the book to be present. One is Armando Hernandez, a man I brought here from Cuba via Mexico because he has a hereditary illness that was not being treated there. The other is poet-philosopher Jorge Valls, who spent 20 years in prison after testifying on behalf of a friend who was subsequently executed. So I hope that any of my blog readers who will be in the area will attend that event.

Monday, February 3, 2014

New Book Images

There's more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes. My pdf folded-out cover, front to back in a single image, was too big to be accepted by BlogSpot, so I scanned my actual proof copy at a lower resolution, which gives you at least an idea and am also showing the back cover author photo, with in my living room with my great-grandson and step-grandchildren.

Returning in March, Pete Seeger, Pope Francis, Karzai, My New Book!, Blog Troubles

Leaving now for Honduras, so I won’t be posting here for the next month or so. It’s too hard to try to do so from that country, as I’m constantly on the move and have little internet access. Will give a full report upon my return. While there, I plan to send a letter with a Honduran stamp to the boy in Spain who is collecting and displaying mail from around the world on his own blog and who contacted me here a few months ago.

Comments on news items:

Someone many of us my age have long admired is now gone. Folk singer Pete Seeger has died at age 94. Until very recently, he was still singing publicly and sang for the Occupy encampment in New York City in 2011.

Pope Francis on the cover of Rolling Stone?  His image is certainly making the rounds. He’s broken out of the mold of most recent popes, which seems a good thing.

Karzai is really going off the deep end, accusing the US of fomenting militant attacks within Afghanistan.

I’d also like to announce my new book that came out just now before my departure, for sale on Amazon, Confessions of a Secret Latina: How I Fell Out of Love with Castro & in Love with the Cuban People, with endorsements from Kartherine Hirschfeld, PhD, of the U of Oklahoma, Humberto Rodriguez-Camilloni, PhD, of Va. Tech, and three names associated with Amnesty International USA, James Graham, former director of the country specialists’ program; Carlos Marin, chair of the Andean co-group; and Steve Marquardt, PhD, former legislative coordinator for Minnesota. It’s a companion book to my previous memoir: Triumph & Hope: Golden Years with the Peace Corps in Honduras. My daughter Stephanie already has created an Amazon link to this blog and the cover is also posted above.

Again, I’ve had great difficulty posting on this blog ever since Amnesty’s closing of my Earthlink account in January led to the establishment of a gmail account that seems to have confused both Google and me.  I am unable to show you an image of the cover for some reason, although a someone fuzzy image appears on the right.