Vicki Huddleston Wins Special Peace Corps Writers Award For RPCVs 2019 (Peru)

Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba
By Vicki Huddleston (Peru 1964-66)

Ambassador Vicki Huddleston (Peru 1964-66) served under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush as Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. She also served as U.S. Ambassador to Madagascar and Mali. Her report for the Brookings Institution about normalizing relations with Cuba was adapted for President Obama’s diplomatic opening with Raúl Castro in 2014. She has written opinion pieces in the New York Times, Miami Herald, and Washington Post. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Our Woman in Havana chronicles the past several decades of US-Cuba relations from the bird’s-eye view of State Department veteran and longtime Cuba hand Vicki Huddleston, our top diplomat in Havana under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. After the US embassy in Havana was closed in 1961, relations between the two countries broke off. A thaw came in 1977, with the opening of a de facto embassy in Havana, the US Interests Section, where Huddleston would later serve. In her compelling memoir of a diplomat at work, she tells gripping stories of face-to-face encounters with Fidel Castro and the initiatives she undertook, like the transistor radios she furnished to ordinary Cubans. With inside accounts of many dramatic episodes, like the tumultuous Elián González custody battle, Huddleston also evokes the charm of the island country, and her warm affection for the Cuban people. Uniquely qualified to explain the inner workings of US-Cuba relations, Huddleston examines the Obama administration’s diplomatic opening of 2014, the mysterious “sonic” brain and hearing injuries suffered by US and Canadian diplomats who were serving in Havana, and the rescinding of the diplomatic opening under the Trump administration. Huddleston recounts missed opportunities for détente, and the myths, misconceptions, and lies that have long pervaded US-Cuba relations. With Raúl Castro scheduled to step down in 2018, she also peers into the future, when for the first time in more than six decades no one named Castro will be Cuba’s leader. Our Woman in Havana is essential reading for everyone interested in Cuba, including the thousands of Americans visiting the island every year, observers who study the stormy relationship with our near neighbor, and policymakers navigating the nuances and challenges of the US-Cuba relationship.

“During her time as the highest-ranking diplomat in Cuba, Vicki Huddleston faced down Fidel Castro at a party, provided thousands of otherwise isolated people with a way to learn more about the outside world, and won awards with an Afghan hound she named after the city of Havana―all while few women held positions of power within the State Department. . . . She’s now on another diplomatic mission: to warn America about the danger of US policy towards Cuba. . . . Her memoir serves as a primer on recent history and points to bad omens of the past threatening to repeat themselves.”
– Santa Fe Reporter

“Diplomatic memoirs of this kind have a long history of informing US policy towards Cuba. . . . We can and should hope that Huddleston’s Our Woman in Havana sways liberals and moderate conservatives to embrace full normalization of relations with Cuba and bring a swift end to the embargo.”
– Andrés Pertierra, Jacobin

“Offering unparalleled insight from [Huddleston’s] almost 20 years as ambassador, Our Woman in Havana: A Diplomat’s Chronicle of America’s Long Struggle with Castro’s Cuba reflects on politics and sexism in a changing global landscape.”
– Culture Trip

“A truly surprising account. . . . in Our Woman in Havana, [Vicki Huddleston] shares the most extraordinary experiences and circumstances of her mission in Cuba.”
– Moises Naím, Efecto Naím

“As one of America’s top Cuba hands, Huddleston has been a privileged eyewitness to key moments of history as well as backroom policy debates. Huddleston’s anecdotes of her life in Havana―everything from spy stories to an argument with Fidel she had at a cocktail party―are sometimes poignant, at other times hilarious, and always delightfully candid.”
– Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

Our Woman in Havana is a brilliant account of a diplomat’s challenges in formulating a sound policy consensus amid the shifting sands of domestic political, economic, and familial interests in Washington, Miami, and Havana. It is also an inspiring foreign service story of a diplomat abroad, charged with providing information and advice to Washington while advancing US policy objectives in an often hostile environment. . . . Anyone interested in the nitty-gritty of policy-making in Washington, and any young foreign service officer intrigued by worldly adventures will thoroughly enjoy Our Woman in Havana, written by one of this generation’s finest diplomats.””
– Ambassador Joseph Wilson, author of The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity

“As someone who has lived most of my life in Miami, and who has seen the effect of US policy toward Cuba up close and very personal, I found Our Woman in Havanato be a remarkable inside account of the real news that was behind the headlines I’ve followed for years. As a bookseller, I know this book will be enthusiastically embraced by my customers and I look forward to offering it to them.””
– Mitchell Kaplan, Founder of Books & Books; co-founder of the Miami Book Fair

“Few on this side of the Florida Straits know Cuba better than Vicki Huddleston . . . She has written an extraordinary firsthand account and one that only an intrepid diplomat― serving both Republican and Democratic presidents―could have experienced, and written.”
– Ann Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential and Without Fidel

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