An intimate, revisionist portrait of the early years of Fidel Castro, showing how an unlikely young Cuban led his country in revolution and transfixed the world.
This book will change how you think about Fidel Castro. Until now, biographers have treated Castro’s life like prosecutors, scouring his past for evidence to convict a person they don’t like or don’t understand. This can make for bad history and unsatisfying biography. Young Castro challenges readers to put aside the caricature of a bearded, cigar-munching, anti-American hot head to discover how Castro became the dictator who acted as a thorn in the side of US presidents for nearly half a century.
These pages show Fidel Castro getting his toughness from a father who survived Spain’s nasty class system and colonial wars to become one of the most successful independent plantation owners in Cuba. They show a boy running around that plantation more comfortable playing with the children of his father’s laborers than his tony classmates at elite boarding schools in Santiago de Cuba and Havana. They show a young man who writes flowery love letters from prison and contemplates the meaning of life, a gregarious soul attentive to the needs of strangers but often indifferent to the needs of his own family. These pages show a liberal democrat who admires FDR’s New Deal policies and is skeptical of communism, but is also hostile to American imperialism. They show an audacious militant who stages a reckless attack on a military barracks but is canny about building an army of resisters. In short, Young Castro reveals a complex man.
The first American historian in a generation to gain access to the Castro archives in Havana, Jonathan Hansen was able to secure cooperation from Castro’s family and closest confidants, gaining access to hundreds of never-before-seen letters and to interviews with people he was the first to ask for their impressions of the man. The result is a nuanced and penetrating portrait of a figure who was determined to be a leader—a man at once brilliant, arrogant, bold, vulnerable and all too human. A man who, having grown up on an island that felt like a colonial cage, was compelled to lead his country to independence.
“Jonathan M. Hansen has dug beneath all the self-serving American myths about the history of Guantánamo Bay to expose a fascinating--and enduring--colonial enterprise. It makes a great story, which Hansen carries through to its latest twist--the use of Guantánamo as a prison for suspected terrorists, some of whom were subjected to torture. Hansen shines a bright new light on Bush administration lawlessness.” —Anthony Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“With wit and verve, Jonathan M. Hansen illuminates the long, strange, compelling, and troubling story of Guantánamo. A vivid and thoughtful writer, Hansen employs Guantánamo as a prism to reveal the tangled construction of an overseas American empire.” —Alan Taylor, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
“Like a rough tear in the fabric of our national identity, the United States’ presence at Guantánamo Bay betrays the paradox that has shaped our history: the U.S. has been, since its inception, both a bastion of independence and an imperial nation. In this enthralling and meticulously researched narrative, the historian Jonathan M. Hansen lays bare the uncomfortable truths that precipitated our occupation of a small and fiercely independent neighbor. Guantánamo has been a stronghold of American influence over an independent Cuba, a holding pen for Haitian refugees living with HIV, and, more recently, the site of human rights atrocities at its notorious prison camp. Here, Hansen offers a clear-eyed and fearless examination of the place that remains a global theatre for the consequences of America’s pursuit of power.” —Paul Farmer, United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti