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Miami

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  691 ratings  ·  62 reviews
It is where Fidel Castro raised money to overthrow Batista and where two generations of Castro's enemies have raised armies to overthrow him, so far without success. It is where the bitter opera of Cuban exile intersects with the cynicism of U.S. foreign policy. It is a city whose skyrocketing murder rate is fueled by the cocaine trade, racial discontent, and an undeclared ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 29th 1998 by Vintage (first published 1987)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,323)
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Eric
The first third of Miami seemed to promise nothing more than amusing reportage—when drug traffickers go house-hunting they look for private water access; Tony Montana became a mythic hero almost the instant Scarface premiered—but then it began to hit much harder. Didion is so good that any subject she takes up seems her destined one, the exclusive focus of her brooding brilliance; but reading Miami I was tempted to narrow things down and say she’s truly in her element among covert missions and c ...more
Lorena
Joan Didion's writing is a touchstone in my life, has been since The White Album. This book suits her style to a T, urgent, riveting, exposing the underbelly. She has the same fascination I have with sordid corruption in politics and circles of power, and Miami is a city rampant with both. The Nicaraguan war was basically run from Miami. That has been established not just in this book, but in many others. The CIA and conservative Cuban exiles who fled Castro teamed up and turned the city into a ...more
orsodimondo
SI PREGA L'ULTIMO AMERICANO A LASCIARE MIAMI DI PORTARE CON SÉ LA BANDIERA
Miami è la città cubana con il più alto numero di popolazione bianca statunitense (anglos).

La ridotta distanza dall’isola, le consente di essere per certi versi parte dell’isola: si può partire da Miami con un buon motoscafo per andare a prendere l’aperitivo all’Avana e rientrare in nottata (Miami Vice, il film).

Joan Didion la racconta nella sua mirabile maniera, collegando fatti apparentemente distanti, intervistando e i
...more
Alison
I really enjoyed this book, which was nothing if not well researched and structured. I appreciated how Didion started small, with the city itself, and grew the book outward, to encompass not just Cuba but other Central and South American countries, as well as other American cities, especially Washington. Her picture of interconnectedness was fabulous, and her diction also great. She used a great deal of repetition in both word and phrase, which I appreciated, as she I'd it when the emphasis was ...more
Jlawrence
Didion continues to be my favorite non-fiction author. The precision of her language matches the precision of her analysis, whether she's describing on the micro scale of how minute gestures of an interviewee reveal their worldview, or the macro scale of Washington politics in the Reagan era. Here (circa '87) she's plumbing the gulf between Miami's Cuban and Anglo populations, and the complicated relation of Cuban anti-Castro militants to Washington, "la lucha" (the struggle) and each other. Man ...more
Patrick McCoy
Miami has been a place that has intrigued me since the days of Miami Vice. Recent shows set there include Burn Notice and Dexter. And it is also the setting of the Charles Willeford's Hoke Moseley novels. Joan Didion took a look at the city in the late 80s and then wrote Miami (1987). It is a fascinating look at the city, but mostly through the Cuban exile politics that have taken place there, where John F. Kennedy was the second most hated man after Fidel Castro. So it goes from the effects of ...more
Lori Marie Ramirez
Wow! So as the white Anglo Saxon perspective of a city that successfully blends two cultures it's no surprise to find racism disguised behind the mask of a liberal. What, there are people who don't speak English or agree with my politics, what is America coming to? Didion, who has never lived in South Florida, has written an embarrassing book that will look worse as time passes and America becomes multicultural. At first, this book was extremely addictive and the history aspect of it had me read ...more
TinHouseBooks

Alyssa Persons (Editorial Intern, Tin House Magazine): Florida has always struck me as an otherworldly appendage to the US, chock full of things whose existences I have no problem acknowledging (alligators, Disney World, etc.), but that I’d rather not ever experience. I thought I might remain carefully ambivalent towards Florida and its various idiosyncrasies, but it seems none other than Joan Didion found a way to successfully tear me from my self-imposed ignorance. If Didion published a book c
...more
Taylor Kate Brown
Jun 04, 2007 Taylor Kate Brown rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in 20th century history
“begins: Havana vanities come to dust in Miami.” Joan Didion writes without a single wasted word and is the master of grammatically correct run-on sentences. She does justice to a city I barely know anything about, so much so that I feel the South Florida humidity on my forehead.I’m shocked that nearly 200 pages of political intrigue surround U.S. foreign policy in Latin America from 1960 to 1980 could be so… sexy?
Christopher
This one took me a while to get into. The narrative, if you will, is non-linear, opaque, and often confusing and contradictory sounding. But that's the point. Didion stirs a tropical cauldron of politics, actions, laments, lies and reversals. The end result is a heat-dream snapshot of a Miami often closer culturally to Cuba than America.
Barbara A
Didion's circular style of writing--her repetition of phrases--can easily give a reader a good case of motion sickness, which is particularly ironic since one can become mired in any paragraph at all, doomed to read and re-read and re-read again, and never to move forward.

But if one can escape becoming a tar baby within the pages of Didion's work, and think it's safe to come out, terror strikes. Her dedication to proving a point makes one never want to venture into the streets of Miami, so hard
...more
Jodi Farrell
One of the best books written about Miami. She nails The Miami Herald and the Cuban community.
Brad
Quote: "Cuba never grew plastique. Cuba grew tobacco, Cuba grew sugarcane. Cuba never grew C4."

Didion's apt conclusion: plastique and C4 were grown in Miami at the behest of Washington by Cuban exiles. Plastique and C4 were exported, mostly, to Cuba and Central America.

In a more dubious tangential aside, Didion considers: perhaps The House Select Committee trumps the Warren Commission; JFK was possibly executed by the CIA and Batista loyalists for his detente solution to the Cuban Missile Crisi
...more
David Bales
A rather disturbing book about the sinister history of Miami in the thirty or so years after the communist revolution in Cuba to the drug-filled '80s; a story of how the poison of the anti-Castro rebels infested South Florida and American politics, from the Bay of Pigs to the Contras in the '80s, and how the low-scheming and political intrigue involving the CIA, drug money and Cuban millionaires led on roads (perhaps) to Dallas in 1963 and the barely noticed Iran-Contra scandal. Gives insight on ...more
Ryan
It seems like it's cheating to rate a book when I didn't actually finish it, but I read about 75% of it. I really enjoyed the first few chapters that were a bit more sociological about North America's only truly Latin American city (for instance, in 1987, only 23% of the population in Miami spoke English as a first language), but it soon began delving into so much of the history of American-Cuban relations that I just got lost. I tried very hard to keep up, but after 100 pages or so of what basi ...more
Melanie
Miami is Joan Didion in top form. It's the best parts of her political writing (the clear vision of the players, the problems, and the entanglements) combined with the single-subject form following Salvador. For those whose criticisms lie in her focus on US policies rather than the specific cultural landscape of Cuban-American Miami, you're missing the point. Her political writing is about the impact of US (generally foreign) policies on communities rather than performing a cultural anthropology ...more
Larryta
Another masterwork of observational reportage by Joan Didion, in which she parses language, headlines, government reports, on-the-ground interviews and mood shifts to understand the subterranean dynamics of the only truly Latin American city in the United States.
Dan
Didion's study of the Cuban exile community in the '80's was thorough and eye-opening. Though at times her tone tended to exoticize her subject, I thought overall the book did a good job of documenting the place, time, and people.
Nathan
I actually picked this book up before I recent trip to Miami and read it on the way back on the plane. It felt a little dated (it pubed in 1987) but Joan Didion's writing made for enjoyable reading, especially her descriptions of Miami's languid, underwater feel. The chronicling of particular Miami residents' lives, particularly of Cuban-Americans & African Americans, was eye-opening. Growing up in 80's these stories seemed somehow imbedded in my brain w/out me knowing it. The only thing kee ...more
Bajames
I guess I know South Florida too well to find this book of interest. I thought Didion's writing, always excellent, would make it worth reading, but I'm putting it down.
Linda
Always elegant language from Ms Didion. Lots of names I didn't recognize or might have recognized had I read this in the late 80's(book came out in 1987) I guess I wish she had written an updated version. Having just been to Cuba I wanted to get a feeling for the other people, the exiles. Almost 30 years have passed, it's not that this book is no longer relevant but it is not the right book to explore where we are now in the Cuba/Miami world
Ben Chapman
Eerie, eerie book .... funny how she mentions all the myth-making of the Reagan Administration, and the funding of the Afghan mujahideen.
Sara
Sep 21, 2013 Sara added it
Shelves: gave-up
Love Joan Didion's writing style. The first half was really interesting, but the second veered off into DC politics and it bores me. It's supposed to be infuriating, but the story is too old. DC politicians use whatever group or cause they can for their own purposes. They make promises they have no intention of keeping. They unflinchingly send people into certain death with no apologies afterwards, just excuses and more lies.

It SHOULD be sad and infuriating, and it would be sad and infuriating
...more
Noah
I don't know what it is, I just can't see what all the fuss is about with Didion. This one wasn't for me.
Emma
This book definitely added some color to my recent trip to the very colorful Miami. Didion explains the power dynamics between the Cuban exiles and the American Government as well as the often contentious and sometimes deadly conflicts among the exiles themselves. Written in 1986, it was fascinating to read about not only the reverberations of Kennedy's administration but the already palpable ideological shifts brought on by the Reagan administration. It was both comforting and terrifying to rea ...more
Jim Willse
Re-read it after a visit to Cuba. Love to hear her report on the Miami of 2015.
Myra
A fascinating account of the Cuban exiles in Miami and their impact on American foreign policy.
Jessamyn
After reading Miami, I wished that Joan Didion would write about everything. It seems the perfect way to get information. Miami was described as a novel on the dust jacket, but it isn't one. There is a strong flow through her description of facts and events-- so reading it put me in a mood that made me feel like I was reading a novel. Joan Didion spent time in Miami for several years, and she writes about the things that interest her: the biggest sense of the city's feeling, the patterns of powe ...more
Hank Stuever
Further intrigued by Joan Didion after we read a chunk from "Miami" in a journalism course I took junior year called Interpretive Writing. Going back, I consider it a somewhat uneven piece compared with the rest of her work, but it's worth studying. She's out of her elements (California; New York), but that's also what makes it interesting. If I had not discovered "The White Album" a year and a half later, I might not have paid much attention to Joan Didion after this, which seems unthinkable no ...more
Anita
fascinating read.
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Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She's best known for her novels and her literary journalism.

Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
More about Joan Didion...
The Year of Magical Thinking Slouching Towards Bethlehem Play It as It Lays Blue Nights The White Album

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