The History of Cuba. The Greenwood histories
of the modern nations. Clifford L. Staten. Westport, CT.: Greenwood
Press 2003. ISBN 0-313-31690-2 (Paper).
Encyclopedia of Cuba: People, History, Culture. Two
Volumes. Luis Martinez-Fernández, D.H. Figueredo, Louis Pérez, Jr.,
and Luis González, eds. Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press,
2003. ISBN (Set): 1-57356-334-X.
Two of the major online booksellers list the availability of 1,230 and 2,178
titles on Cuban history, with an additional 3,573 and 2,815 available on the
more general topic of Cuba from these booksellers alone. Should librarians
be interested in the appearance to two more titles on Cuba?
If the librarian's patrons include secondary students doing introductory
research on Cuba, or adults interested in a general overview of this Island
nation, the Staten book is definitely worth considering. The book is
relatively brief 162 pages), and focuses largely on more recent Cuban history. In
addition to its historical narrative, the book contains an overview of Cuba's
geography, political institutions, economic structure and cultural attributes. There
is a useful chronology of historical events, and biographical sketches of
the more important historical figures in the Nation's history. Both
the Table of Contents and the Index are useful devices for finding specific
topics within the book. The reading level of the book makes it accessible
to secondary school students, and perhaps to readers whose English skills
are not sophisticated. This is not intended to be a "scholarly" treatment
of the history of Cuba, but rather a work that provides a good overview of
significant topics in Cuban history. At this level, the book succeeds
The two-volume Encyclopedia of Cuba is also worthy of careful consideration
by the librarian, largely because of what the Encyclopedia tries not to
be: a catalogue of distortions. The editors argue that "the
catalogue of distortions (in Cuban histories) is a long one; some of the most
prevailing and harmful are highly politicized approaches producing polarized
interpretations of Cuba; a teleological view of Cuba's history that
reduces the past to a mere prologue to the revolution; a before-and-after
narrative that fails to recognize continuities before and after 1959; etc." What
the editors have tried to do is "produce a collective work that is balanced
and thus avoids a politicized depiction of the Cuban past and present reality."
Unlike most encyclopedias, the Encyclopedia of Cuba is not organized
alphabetically by topic, but rather thematically, in twelve topical chapters. Within
each of the chapters (e.g., Chapter 2, Geography, the Environment, and Urbanization),
entries are arranged alphabetically. A List of Entries at the beginning of
Volume 1 lists all topical entries alphabetically, with page numbers, and
the comprehensive Index found at the end of Volume 2 make finding specific
topics quite easy. The arrangement of entries by topical chapters, however,
provides a most useful way of seeing the interrelationships among individual
entries, a feature often not found in encyclopedias. Another useful tool embedded
in the Encyclopedia of Cuba is bolded cross references, which enable
the reader to see the linkages among relevant topics.
In addition to the 12 topical chapters, the Encyclopedia contains
fifteen appendices, each of which provides access to important documents (e.g.,
Appendix 12: Agrarian Reform Law of the Republic of Cuba (1959)), or
summaries of chronologies or facts (e.g., Appendix 15: Presidents from
1868 to the Present.).
Both the content and the reading level of the Encyclopedia of Cuba would
serve a broad general audience, including students and adults interested in
specific aspects of Cuban history, politics, and culture. Whether the
work succeeds as a "balanced" depiction of Cuba, and "avoids
a politicized depiction of the Cuban past and present reality." is, frankly,
beyond the substantive skill of this reviewer to determine. As a librarian,
however, I would not hesitate to recommend the Encyclopedia as a beginning
source of information about Cuba.
About the Author
Dennis D. Gooler is Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University.
© 2005 Dennis D. Gooler
Top of Page | Table of Contents