With We Fed an Island, chef-and-restaurateur-turned-relief worker José Andrés doesn’t just tell the story about how he and a fleet of volunteers cooked millions of meals for the Americans left adrift on Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. He exposes what he views as an outdated top-down, para-military-type model of disaster relief ... No one is spared Andrés’s critical eye, including the chef himself ... Although it contains moments of real pathos, the book is not a saccharine, self-serving tribute to the work of thousands of chefs, line cooks, food truck operators and other volunteers who heeded the call to help from Andrés’s nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen. It’s a manifesto asking governments and nonprofit groups to rethink the way they feed people after a natural disaster ... We Fed an Island is as close to a page-turner as current-affairs nonfiction gets.
Andrés’ heart is very much on display in his new book ... We Fed an Island isn’t just a memoir, or even a memoir with message — it’s an impassioned call to action. Bonus: Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the forward ... Threaded through these achievements, Andrés and Wolffe also provide context ... We Fed an Island is meant to be both an object lesson and a reminder of how much work there is yet to be done in Puerto Rico ... His book, however, will have more effect than any awards or accolades. We Fed an Island for all its righteous boosterism, is a tremendously valuable first-hand account of just what disasters look like — both the ones that nature visits upon us and those that we and our governments visit upon ourselves. It is both cynical and immensely optimistic, and it is ultimately heartwarming.
It’s a story of people feeding people wrapped up in a much bigger story of 3.4 million disaster-struck Americans treated like an unwanted afterthought ... Andrés paints sometimes shocking pictures of huge organizations paralyzed by often remote and indifferent administrators, crippling bureaucratic requirements, and an outdated idea of food that revolved around MREs, which are designed to be almost indestructible ... On the other hand, the story that Andrés spins of his group’s work on Puerto Rico is inspiring ... Andrés’s account is personally compelling, but it’s important in a much larger sense, too—it calls into question the relationship of the United States to its territories...and it raises the possibility that Big Aid is broken, and needs to be reinvented. You can’t read We Fed an Island without being angry on behalf of Andrés and Puertorriqueños ... while Andrés has scores to settle, he’s generally more interested in celebrating the people who helped and spotlighting the resilience of the islanders in the wake of disaster. It’s an important book, and as the rate of major weather events accelerates, its lessons will take on more resonance as the years go by.
We Fed an Island is a cri de couer that is at once a how-to and a how-not-to guide on providing food relief ... Andrés and his co-author, Richard Wolffe, a columnist for the Guardian, do not mince words when describing the failures of organizations from FEMA to the Red Cross to aid these Americans’ recovery ... President Donald Trump is not spared a lashing, either ... In books like this one—written quickly and rushed to print for the sake of timeliness—revision and editing get short shrift. The authors lapse into numerous questions, sometimes whole paragraphs of them, to raise points. Some of the questions have no answers, while others are just Andrés scratching his head. Other times, questions are raised, then answered in the next sentence. On those occasions, questions make for weak transitions ... These quibbles asides, We Fed an Island is an important and informative read about the weak links in disaster relief.
In sum, We Fed an Island is a heart-warming story of how a small organization under determined and knowledgeable leadership can do far more to provide genuinely humanitarian and timely food aid than hidebound bureaucracy. It is told with empathy and palpable energy but not in a self-congratulatory way.
Impassioned and unwavering in his resolve, Andrés and equally committed coauthor Wolffe do a masterful job of detailing World Central Kitchen’s work. They also provide a primer on Puerto Rican history and a brisk analysis of how the federal government failed its citizens ... This is an earthshaking report on Hurricane Maria’s catastrophic aftermath and a hopeful and determined look toward preventing similar failures in the future.
In this inspirational story of humanitarian aid, co-authored by previous collaborator Wolffe (The Message: The Reselling of President Obama, 2013, etc.), Andrés openly shares his frustration and disappointment with FEMA, Donald Trump, numerous agencies in the U.S. government ... Throughout the book, the author’s passion to help people is palpable, as is the sense of hope that helped him achieve an almost impossible goal. His actions should be the basis for future work by FEMA ... A passionate and courageous story that should be required reading for anyone involved in disaster response.
This lovely, energizing story from Michelin-starred chef Andrés and his frequent cookbook coauthor Wolffe (Made in Spain) provides an antidote to passivity and cynicism ... This is a powerful story of the impact a well-meaning group can have on the world.