By Lauren Burnhill
In 1985, I received a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Cuban Studies Program to spend two months in Havana researching the last vestiges of private sector agriculture. The summer of 1985 was when the US launched Radio Marti, a Voice of America program intended to somehow catalyze the anti-Castro revolution that 34 years of blockade had never managed. Nevertheless, the Castro regime was making noises about how Radio Marti was an insult to Cuban domestic sovereignty and for a while, my visa was in question.
Once the visa came through, another round of letters and phone calls was required, this time to the US Treasury Department, to get permission to spend money on soap, beer or whatever necessities I might require while in Cuba. Although it is not actually illegal for US citizens to travel to Cuba, it is illegal to spend money while in Cuba, which I suppose was some clever bureaucrat’s solution to certain First Amendment issues that might otherwise be raised. In any event, I was duly authorized to spend a minimal amount of money during my stay in Cuba and off I went.
Open-minded and well-educated in political science and international relations, I was determined to see Cuba with my own eyes before forming an opinion on the Castro regime and what it had or had not accomplished for the people of Cuba. As I discovered, the realities behind the sugar cane curtain, I formed my own, often conflicting, views of tropical communism. The journal I kept during that two month period, interspersed with my research findings, forms the basis of this book.
Although it was tempting to edit my journal, the naiveté and optimism of my 23 year old self was real. My words remain as they were written and for the most part, they’re kind of funny. Was the metal canister I found in the backyard a listening device? Why did my colleagues automatically join any line they saw in downtown Havana? Can imperialist pigs make long distance phone calls? Dive in to “My Summer in Havana” and you’ll find out!
What did communism do – or not do – for the majority rural population in Cuba? Wealthy landowners generally fled the revolution, often making their way to nearby Miami. What happened to the small farmers and other rural inhabitants? Was there a private sector in Fidel Castro’s Cuba? The data available in the early 1980s suggested that there was still a private sector in key crops like coffee and tobacco and in some areas of transportation, primarily trucking. Given recent work in rural development, I leapt at the opportunity to explore how private sector agriculture differed from centrally planned and owned farming.
What I learned was both heartwarming and a bit astonishing! Over several decades, the government moved increasing resources into producer’s cooperatives and state-owned farms, but the private sector farmers remained more productive even as their resources were constrained. Intellectual freedom was virtually non-existent, but literacy, education and health care were made widely available throughout Cuba.
I left Cuba with mixed feelings and I wonder to this day why massive social change remains the purview of communism and populism. Is there something inherent in democracy that makes us care less about the well-being of our fellow man / woman? How is it that the Castro managed to create a fully literate society in a few years and our “No Child Left Behind” initiative is more “Not All Children Left Behind All of the Time”? Why didn’t a literate, well-educated population lead to a more vibrant economy? Would central planning have worked if done “better” or are the politics of communism an insurmountable obstacle to sustainable growth? You won’t find the answers to these questions in “My Summer in Havana”, but you will find a thought-provoking picture of a world rarely seen by those of us who are not Communist party members!
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/443357.
By Evelyn McKnight
In the small farming community of Fremont, Nebraska, townspeople eagerly welcomed an acclaimed doctor as the first full-time oncologist at their new cancer treatment center – but the fanfare soon turned into a nightmare. During chemotherapy treatments, 857 patients who were already waging the fights of their lives against cancer, were inexplicably exposed to the deadly, blood-borne hepatitis C virus. At least ninety-nine of them contracted the lethal illness. The horror was unprecedented – this was the largest healthcare-trannsmitted outbreak of hepatitis C in American history. “A Never Event” – a term used to describe a preventable medical tragedy – is a searing story of recklessness, deception and betrayal. It’s part mystery, part courtroom drama. Written by a survivor of the tragedy and an attorney who represented many of the victims. A Never Event is a wake-up call to medical and legal communities nationwide.
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at http://www.amazon.com/Never-Event-Evelyn-McKnight-ebook/dp/B001UE7D82.
By R. Lorelei
Dalia becomes the top headline of her all-the-rage reality television show, when a tragic event threatens to destroy any love, trust, or sanity that she possesses.
Dalia and Ryan Kennedy’s relationship is unable to weather the storm of retiring their Olympic careers. Their only remaining tie, is the Canadian Skating Association.
While Dalia’s ex-Ryan tries to reevaluate his life and his career, Dalia is distracted by a captivating man, Bradley Hotman president of the Association, who works at the same office as her and Ryan.
Dalia will stop at nothing to achieve success in her endeavors with the Association, but at what cost?
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/433214.
By R. Lorelei
If only it was that simple!
Tension mounts as Chanel and Nick attempt to break their reliance on each other. New relationships force them to face unique and unfamiliar challenges where they must lean on each other for support … or suffer unforgiving consequences.
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/423311.
By Conrad Reeder
Conrad Reeder earned a MFA Creative Writing in Film, Theater and Communicative Arts
My Crazy Heart weaves one woman’s story about searching for ways to survive after great loss. In the silence, she hears echoes of the feminine divine in the illuminating words of Joseph Campbell, Marija Gimbutas, Dalai Lama, Sappho, Ginette Paris, James Hillman, Queen Lili’uokalani, Virginia Woolf and more.
Conrad Reeder has a MFA Creative Writing in Film, Theater and the Communication Arts from the University of New Orleans.
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/446502.
The dystopian city of Toronto has fallen to Bogtown Records. Revolutionary leader Savion Simms embarks on a dangerous mission that turns ominous when Gui Guillotine arrives on the scene. Sara Simms, the only DJ who can carry out her husband’s plan to save the city has mysteriously disappeared. Melle Oh races to track down her missing sister before Bogtown’s mutant CACU army bombs their studio location to smithereens!
The Future Prophecy is an epic graphic novel and concept album series that features DJs as superheroes and villains. Created by the superstar sibling team of Sara Simms and Melle Oh, each issue of the series will be released alongside a musical track composed by the story’s characters.
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/437640.
By James Powers
When their friend Rachael Cozy is exiled from Empire to the farthest border of the Wasteland, her friends Nika Savage, Nadezhda, and Mr. Hater set out on a quest to rescue their lost friend and bring her home safely.
You can purchase the book online from Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Golden-Tower-Savage-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00JVCT0VI.
By Rachel E. Rice
In the year 2070 in a California valley, the earth appears barren and people have deserted the land to go east, all except David’s family. David, a teenager, has experienced everything imaginable, including eating insects and worms to mitigate his never ending hunger. With the disappearance of animals, vegetation, and clean water, the only well in California which produced drinking water, is dry. David’s father makes the decision to travel to the east where the government promises an abundance of food and water. What the United States government didn’t tell the people was, that three thousand miles on foot, with no food and no water is a death march.
When David and his family leave their only shelter to search for water, they hope that a map holds the secret to finding the well which is thought to contain water and life. On their search for the well, they will embark on a journey of despair, revelation, and a series of misfortunes that will test David’s will to live.
You can purchase the book online from Amazon or Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424975.
By Meredith T Taylor
Marguerite must struggle to understand how she, a half-breed, fits into this new and mysterious world. Along the way, Marguerite is inevitably drawn to William Avery, a powerful young Sironian sworn to watch over her and keep her safe from those Sironians who would destroy her for what she represents. As their reluctant attraction turns to romance, Marguerite must prepare herself for a climactic collision between the human world of her past and the Sironian world she has now embraced.
You can purchase the book online from Amazon or Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/422523.
By Alice Michael Evans
Finally a book that offers an honest, insider’s look into public education! Written by a National Board Certified forty-year veteran classroom teacher, this book covers an array of controversial and essential topics, such as: The Code of Silence; Teaching to the Test; It’s Not about the Battle or the War; What Are Octopus Teachers?; Parents: I Feel Your Pain; Common Core Standards: The Pendulum Swings Again; Will Cheating Stop With the Common Core Standards?; Programs for Students with Individualized Education Programs; The Best Things Parents Can Do; Too Much Homework?; Can Award Ceremonies Be Harmful?; Pull-Out Programs; So-Called Behavior Problems;
Test Scores and the Pressures to Cheat; Rehearsed “Tricks”; Speak in Plain English!; High Stakes vs. No Stakes; Test Scores on the Rise?; Too Much Testing?; Absurdities; Gifted Students: An Elite Society?; All Hands On Deck; Dog and Pony Shows; Classroom Teacher Responsibilities: You Won’t Believe the List!; How Many Plates Can You Balance?; Principals… Just Be Honest; and much more! EVERY parent and teacher needs to seriously contemplate these topics. Getting it all out on the table is the key to working collaboratively to make necessary changes for a better educational system!
The author confirms that parents have an “inalienable” right and obligation to have tunnel vision when it comes to their child and his/her needs, but hopes the book will convey to them the importance of looking to the left and right to better understand the whole complex picture. With her writing, she intends to enlighten parents, humor them at times, and provide a more informed perspective. Knowing that parents often feel as if they are standing on the other side of a very tall fence separating them from their child’s teacher, the author’s commentary serves as a means to lower the fence, empower both teachers and parents, and be an advocate for our precious children. As the parent of a severely disabled child and a “gifted one”, she has felt the same insecurities and fears, and can certainly relate to the challenges parents face!
Although Alice Evans is a staunch supporter of her fellow classroom teachers and feels their joys and sorrows, she makes it clear that she is not necessarily voicing the opinions of all professionals! She is, however, optimistic that teachers will relate to some of her commentary and then feel empowered to speak out more!
Mrs. Evans bravely “breaks the code of silence” by putting a spotlight on some “taboo” topics. It is a difficult and heart-wrenching endeavor, but one she feels is necessary if parents and teachers truly care about improving education. As Dr. Seuss wrote in The Lorax…”Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
You can purchase the book online from Amazon or Smashwords in multiple eBook formats at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/417788.