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.
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 (Amazon.com, 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, http://honduraspeacecorps.blogspot.com, 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.