The Other Side of Paradise

Life in the New Cuba

A vivid and unprecedented look into the daily lives and future prospects of young people in Cuba today.

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$17.00 USD
April 2014
256 pages
5.5" x 8.25"
First Trade Paper Edition
Trade Paper Original

Print Edition

ISBN: 9781580055314

Ebook Edition

ISBN: 9781580055321

The Other Side of Paradise

Life in the New Cuba

By Julia Cooke

$17.00 USD, Trade Paper Original, April 2014

Over a period of five years, beginning when Fidel Castro stepped down from his presidency after almost a half-century of reign, journalist Julia Cooke embedded herself in Cuba, gaining access to a dynamic Havana—one that she found populated with twenty-five-year-old Marxist philosophy students, baby-faced anarchists, children of the whiskey-drinking elite, Santería trainees, pregnant prostitutes, and more.

Combining intimate storytelling with in-depth reportage, The Other Side of Paradise weaves together stories of the Cubans whom Cooke encountered, providing a vivid and unprecedented look into the daily lives and future prospects of young people in Cuba today. From ambitious Lucía—a recent university graduate with an acerbic sense of humor and plans to leave Cuba for the first country to give her a visa, if she can just get the roadblocks out of the way—to a crew of mohawk-wearing teenage anarchists who toss bricks at police cars and cite lyrics by The Clash (but don’t know the lead singer’s name), the characters of The Other Side of Paradise paint a captivating portrait of Cuban culture and the emerging legacy of Fidel Castro’s failed promises.

Eye-opening and politically prescient, The Other Side of Paradise is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after they’ve finished reading.

This exquisite memoir paints a vivid and sensually detailed portrait of life on a surreal socialist isle in the sun. With insightful precision, Julia Cooke weaves a sympathetic and intimate narrative of Cubans whose lives she tracked closely and whose most common dream is of escaping a sclerotic Communist system that fails to provide. This book is a must read for anyone seeking to comprehend this fascinating land of eccentricity, eroticism and enigma.

—Christopher P. Baker, author of Moon Cuba and Mi Moto Fidel


Discussion Questions for The Other Side of Paradise developed by Katie Mock. These discussion questions are also available for download as a PDF.

About Julia Cooke

Julia Cooke is a freelance journalist and teacher who has lived in and reported from Mexico City and Havana. She has received fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center and Columbia University, where she completed her master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing. Her essays about Cuba have been published in Conde Nast Traveller, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Best Women’s Travel Writing anthology, among numerous newspapers and magazines. She is fluent in Spanish.

Cooke grew up in Portland, Oregon, and now lives in New York City, where she writes and teaches at the New School. The Other Side of Paradise is her first book.