Y’all might not think graphic novels are legitimate book club reads, but anyone who has read Persepolis will correct you. And if you liked the intimate, enthusiastic first person historical recounting that made Persepolis (and the accompanying movie) so great, you’ll [probably] like Cuba: My Revolution. Even if you’re new to graphic novels, it’s a really good introduction to the graphic novel as autobiographical and historical. I promise, adding pictures to a book makes it no less informative. Only a little more interesting.
I’m no Cuban historian, but I saw this at the library, and was inspired over the last few days to move it up in my queue of novels to review. However, I’d be interested in a historian’s impression of the book, because it seems to fuse the accuracy of a formal historical timeline with an informal first person narrative. It’s really the perfect learning tool– one that might could possibly maybe kinda-sorta get me to read about the American civil war as well (Y’all saw all those qualifiers? I meant each and every one).
In short, Cuba: My Revolution is the graphic retelling of Inverna Lockpez’s romance and breakup with the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s and 60s. Lockpez is reincarnated as Sonya, a 17 year old eager to be on the front lines of change; eager to build a Cuba for Cubans. In her own words:
“There were aspects of my life I preferred to forget because they were too painful to remember. In spite of myself, flashes of the past experiences appeared, in the process of reconstructing them I learned that testimony is important to the ideals and endurance of the human spirit, as well as to my own.
This book is for the people of Cuba everywhere not been heard, who have endured economic hardship, who long to express themselves through art without the fear of imprisonment, and who still fight for the return of freedom once enjoyed.”
The art is striking, as graphic novels tend to be, and the visuals are enhanced by a fascinating story. Even more, it’s a story that has increasing relevance in the contemporary political landscape. Regardless of your position on US-Cuban relations, the idea of even more narratives as Cuba becomes a more open country is riveting. Admittedly, there are more angles than this one. Ones of people who were a part of Castro’s government, people who were against him from the start, and those who continued to support Castro through economic troubles. Narratives from light-skinned Cubans, or dark-skinned ones like Sonya’s family friend. Perhaps even people who made it to the United States, versus those who migrated to other countries. Cuba: My Revolution is an extraordinary introduction to all of these stories, providing just enough history to make the reader want to learn more. It dismantles Cuban history, making it digestible without talking down to it’s audience. With that in mind, I recommend it. Perhaps it isn’t for everyone, but it’s a great read. I promise you that you’ll be surprised by how much you learn; maybe more than you would have learned by just reading some of this in a history text book.
While we’re on the subject, feel free to recommend some graphic novels in the comments section. There are a number of them that examine African American history, so I think I’ll start on some of those. Let me know if you’ve already finished any of them!
Hardcover: 144 pages
Release Date: September 14, 2010