Richard Hirsch once said, “We cannot become the person we long to be by ignoring the persons we have been.” The novels of contemporary author Myla Goldberg embody this saying, illustrating what happens when characters fail to acknowledge and cope with their pasts and are therefore unable to connect with other human beings, causing them to lead isolated lives. Goldberg’s characters are unable to commit themselves fully to intimate relationships as a result of their past experiences and the environment that shaped their personalities, and this leads to their further alienation from their loved ones. Goldberg’s first novel, Bee Season, centers on father figure Saul and his wife Miriam, who initially bond over their mutual lack of family ties and isolated childhoods. As time goes on, their relationship turns into a loveless marriage, and by the end of the novel, Miriam is committed to a mental asylum for her chronic kleptomania, and the couple’s children cut off ties with Saul, leaving them both forlorn and once again without a family.
Just as characters in Goldberg’s novels feel isolated in their relationships, prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay were isolated from the rest of society. In 1898, the United States established a naval base on the southern tip of Cuba at Guantanamo Bay. Later, they built prison camps there that served as torture chambers for many presumably innocent people. The military base not only challenged Cuban sovereignty but, in subsequent decades, also contributed to the decline of the economy. Cuba was largely dependent on the United States through American ownership of mills and plantations in the area surrounding Guantanamo Bay; the base also provided a source of income for Cuban workers. The American embargo, placed on Cuba in 1960 as a result of the communist revolution, increased tariff rates and caused the standard of living in Cuba to plummet. The United States challenged Cuban sovereignty not only by the economic power that it wielded, but also by its presence at Guantanamo Bay, whose legality the Cubans challenged. There, Americans violated prisoners’ human rights with torture methods that caused extreme psychological damage.
Major Works Consulted:
Goldberg, Myla. Bee Season. New York: Anchor, 2000.
Photo Credit: Goldberg, Myla. Bee Season. New York: Anchor, 2000.
--. Wickett’s Remedy. New York: Anchor, 2006. .
James, Ian Michael. Ninety Miles: Cuban Journeys in the Age of Castro, Lenham: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2006. .
Margulies, Joseph. Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power, New York: Simon and