Telex from Cuba

Finalist, National Book Awards 2008 for Fiction

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner, 2008
ISBN 9781416561033
Scribner
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Rachel Kushner

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Young Everly Lederer and K. C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom — three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child’s dreamworld, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of the grown-ups around them — the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies and violence.

In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a cabaret dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Mazière, whose seductive demeanor can’t mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raúl Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane plantation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of “yanqui” revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. Though their parents remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come.

At the time, urgent news was conveyed by telex.

Judges Citation

A profound and lush evocation of 1950s’ Cuba, this debut novel is the first to tell the story of the American executives who were driven out by Castro. Though the chief observers are two keen-eyed American children, Kushner masterfully portrays the complex and varied forces of revolution through the perspectives of dictators, workers, the Havana underworld, the revolutionaries in the hills, and the Americans in denial that their colonial paradise is doomed.

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