4 out of 4 stars
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In Heart of a Cuban: Refugee to American Hero, NJ Perez gives a nonfictional account of the lives of Andrés Perez and his ancestors. In the 1890s, Andrés Perez' great-grandfathers, Pedro Perez and Juan Delgado, were instrumental in overthrowing the Spanish colonial rule to give Cuba a place in the free world. However, years after Pedro Perez and Juan Delgado had passed on, it seemed as though their efforts would be in vain as power in Cuba fell into the hands of one dictator after another. Life in Cuba under dictators like Fulgencio Batista was heaven compared to what was to come. After Fidel Castro's rise to power, things took a turn for the worst. Seized properties, unfair trials, public executions, rations, and no rights to freedom of speech were just a few of the Cuban's sufferings.
It came as no surprise when Andrés' grandfather, Pedrito Perez, decided to speak up to challenge Castro on multiple occasions. Ultimately, he was executed on Castro's orders. This prompted Andrés' family to attempt escaping to the United States of America through the ocean on a small boat, despite the dangers that came with such a journey. What would Andrés and his family encounter if they made it to America?
I've read a few books about life under Fidel Castro's administration in Cuba, but none that went as in-depth as Heart of a Cuban to describe the events that took place in that period. The way the author brings the emotions of the Cubans to life in this book is one of the things I liked the most. The book starts off slowly. The author spends about eleven chapters giving us details about Andrés' life as a boy. It felt a bit too long and boring at times, but I also felt it was essential in helping me to connect to Andrés and his family, as I got to know a lot about them. That was why each time they were persecuted, unfairly imprisoned, and executed, I felt it deeply.
I found the story informative about the political history of Cuba. Andrés also gave reasons why he thought the cruel Cuban leaders did what they did, which I found interesting. Another thing I liked about this book was how many lessons I learned alongside Andrés from his ancestors while he read his history books. Most of the lessons focused on learning how to face one's fear, and I found them motivational just as Andrés did. These lessons went a long way to shape the type of man Andrés would become. The story also highlighted the role the United States of America played in Cuba's difficult situation.
The book goes beyond just the political history of Cuba. The second part of the story follows Andrés and his family across the ocean to the U.S.A, and it details the challenges they face as they try to settle.
Heart of a Cuban is well edited and well organized. There were a few grammatical errors, but none that made my reading difficult at any point. There wasn't much to dislike about the book. If I had to pick a negative, I would have liked it if the author included more suspense in the story. The kind of suspense in the part of the book just before Pedrito's execution was what I wanted most of the time, but I didn't get that.
Overall, saying that I enjoyed reading Heart of a Cuban is a serious understatement. I really connected with most of the people in the story, especially Andrés. The journey through Heart of a Cuban was an emotional roller coaster for me. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars as there's no reason why I should rate it less. I would gladly recommend this book to people who like to read biographies and learn about political history. If you like to read motivational and emotional books, there's also something for you in this book.
Heart of a Cuban: Refugee to American Hero
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