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Reviewed by Ray Hosler for Readers' Favorite
I Am Cuba: Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution by Matthew Langdon Cost offers an accurate and detailed historical account of Cuba’s people's revolution (26th of July Movement) that began in 1953 and ended on December 31, 1958, with the overthrow of military dictator Fulgencio Batista. The novel unfolds through the eyes of two fictional characters, Vicente Bolívar and his lover Sophia Franco. Vicente’s involvement with the revolution starts with a bang when his guerrilla force fails to capture the Moncada Military Barracks in Santiago, and concludes with Fidel Castro’s triumphant entry to Havana. Through Vicente’s eyes, Cost gives the reader a close-up and personal view of Castro, his brother Raúl, Che Guevara, Frank País, and other notable revolutionaries. The author moves the story along at a steady pace, following Castro’s move to Mexico and back to Cuba, where his force is nearly wiped out by the Cuban army. Along the way, Vicente matures into manhood, thanks to the rebels. Sophia, an American, endures hardship and discovers the strength and determination of Cuba’s revolutionary spirit. Vicente and Sophia overcome difficult living conditions in the Sierra Maestra mountains, moving from camp to camp daily to avoid Cuban aircraft and the soldiers’ pursuit.
Matthew Langdon Cost gives the reader a clear and concise accounting of the revolution while telling a story. I Am Cuba shines by offering a well-executed balance between fiction and actual history. Vicente and Sophia come across as believable, well-developed characters with hearts and souls. Their interaction gives the novel depth and invests the reader in their well-being during these tumultuous times in Cuba’s history. Many of the incidents described will be revealing to casual readers of the Cuban revolution, including Ed Sullivan’s unusual televised interview with Fidel Castro. We learn about Castro’s support for women’s emancipation as he lets them engage in combat and take positions of responsibility. Celia Sánchez, for example, has a pivotal role in the revolution as Castro comes to rely on her considerable abilities. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to find out more about the Cuban revolution and follow the exploits of Vicente and Sophia. Will they survive the war? Read and find out!