Holiday Lit List — My Seductive Cuba

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Wherein we look at some of the local books that have been published this year and give you some ideas of what to get your book-loving friends and family for Hanukkah, Solstice, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or just because it’s a day ending with “y”.
Don’t forget to support your local independent bookstores!

My Seductive Cuba
by Chen Lizra
Latidos Productions

Okay, we’re making an exception to the “published in 2012″ guideline for the Holiday Lit List because this is such a gorgeous book that really needs more people knowing about it. And in the middle of a grey, sometimes white, and cold Vancouver winter, who wouldn’t want to cuddle down with a book about travelling to Cuba?

Vancouver-based writer, dancer, traveller, and entrepreneur Chen Lizra, has written more than just a travel book; she immerses the reader in the Cuban culture, takes us into the heart of the people and the country, and gives us so much more than what you’d find from Frommer’s or Lonely Planet. Sure it has all the usual sections you expect to find in a guide book (preparing for your trip, getting around, where to eat, stay, and shop) but it is full of anecdotes and personal experiences from her many trips to Cuba. Worried about the stories you hear of scam artists? Lizra relates her stories and gives suggestions on how to avoid or deal with such situations with grace and humour. What to know the best places to hear live music? She’s got you covered.

My favourite section of the book is “Getting the Authentic Cuban Experience” where, in addition to discussing the Cuban language and popular drinks, she takes us into the world of Santería, the belief system that evolved from the Yoruba religion of the West African slaves merging with Roman Catholic and Native American traditions. Lizra gives a very detailed account of a tambor ceremony involving possession by orishas, or spirits, and shares her fear and confusion of what was going on around her. Her section on Rules and Customs of Cuba is both informative and entertaining, and goes well beyond the usual brief guidelines you find in other travel books.

And throughout the book, there is the seduction. Lizra, who recently spoke at TedxVancouver on the topic, explains the hot climate attitude of warmth and flirting, how to play with it, enjoy it, and, for women, how to do so safely.

The compact, colourful 328-page guide is loaded with photographs and illustrations, and peppered throughout are QR codes that, when scanned, lead you to online content such as videos and helpful web pages. (The links are also printed if you want to follow up later.) This amazingly self-published book is a beautiful collaboration between Lizra, her American editor, Argentinian designer, and Chinese printer and received an Independent Publisher Book Award. Early in the New Year look for our interview with Chen Lizra and our discussion about the trials and tribulations of self-publishing.

As Lizra says, “Cuba offers the tourist two main options. Most choose the comfortable, all-inclusive resort experience that lets you truly relax, enjoy your drinks, and go swimming in the beautiful Caribbean — detached from daily life. Or, you can choose a raw and magnificent adventure full of colors, rhythm, interesting people and unexpected turns of events inside the real Cuba.” This book is for those of you who want the raw experience.

Take a look at the My Seductive Cuba website for background info and details on where to buy the book.

Click to read our previous Holiday Lit List suggestions.