Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
Reviewed by Graham Reynolds, Fri., Nov. 30, 2007
Queens of Havana: The Amazing Adventures of Anacaona, Cuba's legendary All-Girl Dance Bandby Alicia Castro, as told to Ingrid Kummels and Manfred Schafer, translated by Steven T. Murray
Grove Press, 393 pp., $24
Alicia Castro's a charmer and clearly always has been. Queens of Havana is the memoir of this musical pioneer, one of 12 sisters in Cuba's first all-girl dance band, Anacaona. A fun, easy read, the book gives a personal peek into life in Cuba over the past 80 years, predating both Batista's dictatorship and Castro's revolution. Orally dictated, Queens feels like sitting at the kitchen table and hearing your grandmother's life story, only Grandma's adventures span the globe and feature such characters as Marlene Dietrich and Benny Goodman, Castro and Batista, and countless others. The photos are generous and a blast, including the menu from one of the first clubs they played; Buddy Rich, who took the drumming sister to get a new kit; and, of course, images of the sisters throughout the decades. While the gigs and tours were many, the recordings of Anacaona are relatively few, leaving less to explore than one would hope. The book isn't a literary heavyweight, but there's plenty to enjoy, so if you have any book-loving fans of the Buena Vista Social Club on your holiday shopping list, Queens of Havana is for you.