Official Review: Stronger Than Tyranny

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inaramid
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Official Review: Stronger Than Tyranny

Post by inaramid » 14 May 2018, 04:10

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Stronger Than Tyranny" by Ernesto Diaz-Rodriguez.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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What would you do in the next 22 years and 3 months of your life? That’s more than enough time to build a career, raise a family, volunteer for a cause, or maybe spend a few years abroad. It’s a long time to live your life the way you want to.

Writer and poet Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez wasn’t afforded the right to contemplate his own future. In 1968, at the age of 29, he was imprisoned for being a threat to the “integrity and stability” of his own country. He was 51 when he was finally released—22 years and 3 months after his detainment. Stronger Than Tyranny: Political Prisoners in Cuba recounts those intervening years, with Rodriguez held as a political prisoner under Fidel Castro’s dictatorial reign. Originally written on scraps of paper that were then smuggled out of prison, Stronger Than Tyranny is a compendium of harrowing stories that lays bare the extremes of human nature, where endurance, conviction, and brotherhood stand in stark contrast to the equally human traits of indifference, cruelty, and barbarism.

When I started reading this book, I braced myself for the (very likely) possibility of coming across graphic scenes of torture, of people being stripped of their humanity. After all, doesn’t dehumanization go hand-in-hand with tyranny? Rodriguez, however, leaves the things that happen in the punishment pavilions (ironically dubbed “human rights” by the prisoners) to the reader’s imagination. What he chooses to divulge instead are much simpler—but surprisingly much worse.

In narrating his and his fellow prisoners’ ordeal, Rodriguez anatomizes the concept of freedom down to the basics. As he details what they’d lost with their imprisonment, he reframes freedom in ways that are more disturbing than the gruesome scenarios I’d been expecting. Freedom is having privacy, the right to communicate with your friends and family, the choice to stay or leave. To be free is to revel in the simple matters of living—having decent food to eat, water to bathe with, a bed to sleep in. Freedom is never having to notice such insignificant matters as the lack of cutleries, pillows, or clean underwear. Freedom is requisite to being human.

Rodriguez depicts his incarceration with all the mastery of a painter capturing a scene on canvas. I was especially moved by the way Rodriguez described the fate of Pedro Luis Boitel—a student leader who went on a hunger strike for 52 days, fell into a coma, and eventually died. Of this young revolutionary, Rodriguez writes:
“Pedro Luis’s arm dangled down, which, given the careless progress of the guards, swung like a slow pendulum, like the pendulum of a clock that has exhausted all its cord and is about to stop. A lieutenant with a protruding belly…lifted the bony limb back onto the bed of the dying one.”
The narrative is often poignant, heartrending, with a smidgen of wry humor in between. It’s also factual, exhaustive, even a little dry in some places. It often reads like poetry…but also very much like a court affidavit. Names are painstakingly documented; dates and times of events are specified; and conversations are almost verbatim. Nothing appears to be embellished. Everything is just what it is. There’s an undercurrent of something here, perhaps a fear of forgetting—or of being forgotten. Far from bogging down the narrative, however, this approach further immerses the reader in Rodriguez’s memories and makes his experiences feel more real.

If half points were allowed, I would have rated Stronger Than Tyranny 3.5 stars. Despite the strength of the writing and the gravity of the book’s message, the text is not as well edited as I’d hoped. There were missing punctuation marks, missing articles and prepositions, and a few confused words. The book was translated from the author’s native language, so these problems may just be an issue with the translation.

I give Stronger Than Tyranny a final rating of 3 out of 4 stars. The plight of Rodriguez and his fellow plantados—the “rooted ones” or those who refused to relinquish the fight against oppression—must be heard. This is a book for anyone who fears for their country’s future. This is for people who wish to know what it takes to fight tyranny. This is for anyone who simply wishes to find proof of the “indomitable nature of the human spirit.” You don’t have to love history to appreciate the value of this book. You don’t even have to be Cuban. You just have to be human.

******
Stronger Than Tyranny
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Post by ParadoxicalWoman » 25 Jun 2018, 04:13

This almost sounds like Nelson Mandela's book 'Long walk to freedom'. This is definitely a must read to me. Thank you for your insightful review on this.
"Read in order to live." ~Gustave Flaubert
"Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Post by crediblereading2 » 25 Jun 2018, 09:52

This book that encourages brotherhood and courage sounds like a best-seller. I truly enjoy your review.

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Post by gen_g » 25 Jun 2018, 10:00

ParadoxicalWoman wrote: ↑
25 Jun 2018, 04:13
This almost sounds like Nelson Mandela's book 'Long walk to freedom'. This is definitely a must read to me. Thank you for your insightful review on this.
I definitely agree with ParadoxicalWoman! These heavy topics need to be addressed honestly and I'm glad that the book seems to do so. I am putting this on my to-read list. Thank you for such a brilliantly written review.

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Post by kandscreeley » 25 Jun 2018, 11:55

It is sad when a book that has such a meaningful message is brought down by poor editing. Still, it sounds like it's very worth sifting through the grammatical missteps. Thanks so much for the information. I do feel sorry for the author and the time he lost.
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Post by AWANDO OGUTU » 25 Jun 2018, 13:57

Stronger than tyranny is an inspiring book. The author describes his experiences as a political prisoner in Cuba. He is critical of Fidel Castro tyrannical regime and that makes him to be imprisoned for 22 years. That's surely a long time. This is what actually happens in dictatorial societies.

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Post by SamSim » 25 Jun 2018, 17:51

inaramid wrote: ↑
14 May 2018, 04:10
There’s an undercurrent of something here, perhaps a fear of forgetting—or of being forgotten. Far from bogging down the narrative, however, this approach further immerses the reader in Rodriguez’s memories and makes his experiences feel more real ...
This is a book for anyone who fears for their country’s future. This is for people who wish to know what it takes to fight tyranny. This is for anyone who simply wishes to find proof of the “indomitable nature of the human spirit.” You don’t have to love history to appreciate the value of this book. You don’t even have to be Cuban. You just have to be human.
Wow. If the book is near as good as your review, I want to read it. Thanks for the recommendation!
Samantha Simoneau

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Post by peter-sharp » 27 Jun 2018, 16:36

i love this book itz was very interesting to me.... Stronger than tyranny is an inspiring book. The
author describes his experiences as a political
prisoner in Cuba. He is critical of Fidel Castro
tyrannical regime and that makes him to be
imprisoned for 22 years.

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Post by Litin Thakur » 29 Jun 2018, 00:27

i love this book itz was very interesting to me....Stronger than Tyranny is an inspiring book. The author describes his experiences as a political prisoner in Cuba. He is critical of Fidel Castro tyrannical regime and that makes him to be imprisoned for 22 years. That's surely a long time. This is what actually happens in dictatorial societies.

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Post by Amy+++ » 02 Jul 2018, 20:31

The book speaks volumes. Freedom is part of being human and anyone person or country who takes that away isn't human. You often wonder what happens to people in other countries who get arrested for no reason simply because they have a different point of view than their leader. The book sounds like a rough read, dealing with people who are arrested and possibly tortured but strong and eye opening.

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Post by inaramid » 07 Jul 2018, 02:00

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I've read this book a while back and was pleasantly surprised to see my review published.

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Post by Sarah Tariq » 07 Jul 2018, 10:49

Thanks for this perfect review! Its truly a heart wrenching story. A man who passed 22 years of his life in a prison, what is left behind... Horrible. But unfortunately it is common for political prisoners as they are kept in detention for as long as the ruling party rules.
Make your ideals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you.

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Post by inaramid » 09 Jul 2018, 04:33

Sarah Tariq wrote: ↑
07 Jul 2018, 10:49
Thanks for this perfect review! Its truly a heart wrenching story. A man who passed 22 years of his life in a prison, what is left behind... Horrible. But unfortunately it is common for political prisoners as they are kept in detention for as long as the ruling party rules.
Indeed, I have come to a new appreciation of the horrors political prisoners undergo. Thanks for dropping by.

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Post by Faithmwangi » 13 Jul 2018, 14:18

Wow! I Love how you end your review."You dont have to be cuban,just human."You sold me with this statement. 22 years and 3 months is quite a long time.Its stories like this that remind us to be grateful and make good use of the time we have.

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Post by inaramid » 14 Jul 2018, 04:52

Faithmwangi wrote: ↑
13 Jul 2018, 14:18
Wow! I Love how you end your review."You dont have to be cuban,just human."You sold me with this statement. 22 years and 3 months is quite a long time.Its stories like this that remind us to be grateful and make good use of the time we have.
Thank you :). Despite some flaws, the book moved me.

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