A beautifully written journey along the Spanish-American War battle trail connects America's troubled present to its forgotten past.
In Yankee Come Home, journalist William Craig searches Cuba's most entrancing, storied landscape for the history – and values – that his country has left behind. He's looking for the place where Gilded Age America became an overseas empire, the place where post-9/11 America holds prisoners beyond the reach of law.
“I needed to see Guantánamo the way some Americans needed to drive through the night to kneel at JFK’s coffin, and others are drawn to Ground Zero,” he writes. “Sometimes, we don’t know what we’ve lost until we trace the scars.”
As Craig travels Cuba’s fabled Oriente Province, every adventure – dancing at a spirit-possession ritual, cheering a baseball game, listening for the jazz in Cuban roots music and sweating through police interrogation – testifies to the enduring impact of the Spanish-American War.
It’s a legacy written into the fates of families, both Cuban and American.
Yankee Come Home tells the story of the Luceros, Cubans caught in the crossfire of American ideals and imperialism. Craig’s road to Guantánamo is also a journey toward the truth about his mysterious great-grandfather, Thomas O’Brien, a self-proclaimed hero of the “splendid little war” who left a legacy of glorious, painful lies. And it’s a pilgrimage offered up for the safety of his stepson, serving with the Marines in Iraq.
Like the vibrant culture of Oriente, Yankee Come Home is alternately joyous and angry, but always captivating. Funny, furious and compassionate, Craig is the perfect guide to an unflattering history we’ve tried to forget — and need, now more than ever, to remember.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers
1076 Post Road East Westport, CT 06880
Author and Westport, CT native, Bill returns to offer a benefit reading for the Montessori Middle School at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on December 14, 2012.
The 7 p.m. reading at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers’ 1076 Post Road East
26 Elm Street, Woodstock VT
I'll be reading from the book, showing slides and playing music from Oriente Province, and talking Spanish-Cuban-American War history with a Cuban studies group at the WHS starting at 7 this evening. It's open to the public, with a $5 fee for non-WHS members. The first Yankee Come Home reading of the second half of the Obama Era!
Few stores still fulfill the browser's dream of a wisely chosen, ever-surprising collection of used and loved books. Nancy Cressman's Left Bank keeps the dream alive. I'll be there to read from 'Yankee Come Home' -- sure it's new, and I'll have copies for sale, but it'll be in august used-book company! And I'll show some pictures of Oriente Province, Cuba and play some of the region'smusica tipica. I hope you'll join us. If I know the Left Bank crowd, there'll be some very interesting, well-informed q+a, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Without the scholarship and literary achievements of Philip Foner and Louis A. Pérez, Jr., yanquis would know little and understand still less of their nation's crucial and often shameful relations with Cuba. Foner's The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American imperialism, 1895-1902 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972) rescued the reality of U.S. invasion and colonization from seven decades of self-serving distortion and willful forgetting. Brilliant and prolific, Pérez offers readers numerous approaches to Cuban-American history, including Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1990), Cuba Between Empires, 1878-1902 (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 1983) and The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).
Other fine introductions to U.S.-Cuban history include Jules R. Benjamin, The United States and the Origins of the Cuban Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990) and Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Thomas G. Paterson, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. The best read on the subject in years is Tom Gjelten's original and moving study, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause (New York: Viking, 2008).
Concerning the United States' intervention in Cuba in 1898, one good starting place is Graham A. Cosmas, An Army for Empire (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Press, 1994), which defines the war by examining the force that fought it.
Donald H. Dyal's Historical Dictionary of the Spanish-American War (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998) is an indispensable source. George O'Toole, The Spanish War (New York: Norton, 1984) and David F, Trask, The War with Spain in 1898 (New York” Macmillan, 1981) are the best popular histories, and A.B. Feuer's The Santiago Campaign of 1898: A Soldier's View of the Spanish-American War (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1993) an excellent relief from the general's-eye view. Willard B. Gatewood, Black Americans and the White Man's Burden, 1898-1903 (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1975) and Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) consider the war's racist and gender-addled ideologies.
Theodore Roosevelt's self-contradictions are so many and so consequential, it's no wonder that Edmund Morris' marvelous three-volume biography – The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex and Colonel Roosevelt – sometimes fails to reconcile one TR to another. Deeply researched and tremendously readable, Morris' trilogy lets Teddy be Teddy, an occupation which never had much to with consistency and self-awareness.
Among Cuban overviews of 1898, no study is more fascinating that Felipe Martínez Arango's sometimes hour-by-hour timeline of tragic and heroic events, Cronología crítica de la guerra hispano-cubanoamericana (Santiago de Cuba: Universidad de Oriente, 1960).
Cuba writes more about its latest revolution, but Spain still turns out numerous studies of its Cuban wars. Standouts include José Calvo Poyato, El Desastre del 98 (Barcelona, Plaza & Janés, 1997), José Antonio Plaza, El Maldito Verano del 98 (Madrid: Ediciones Themas de Hoy, 1997), Antonio Elorza and Elena Hernández Sandoica, La Guerra De Cuba (1895-1898) (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1998) and Juan Batista González, Santiago de Cuba: La batalla que pudo no haberse perdido (Madrid: Silex, 2005). Norteamericano scholar D.J. Walker has written an enlightening study of Spanish Women and the Colonial Wars of the 1890s (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).
To learn about Cuba between 1898 and Batista's fall, Americans might start with The Crime of Cuba by Carelton Beals, with photographs by Walker Evans (Philadelphia: J.B. Lipincott, 1933), an unforgettable indictment of the U.S. sugar industry's influence on neocolonial Cuba.
From the Cuban perspective, Santiago de Cuba en el Transito de la Colonia a la República, by Santiago historian Reynaldo Cruz Ruiz (Santiago de Cuba: Ediciones Santiago, 2008) and Santiago de Cuba en la neocolonia, by Concepción Portuondo López (Santiago de Cuba: Ediciones Santiago, 2008) are superb monographs on Oriente's experience of neocolonialism.
Santiago Insurreccional 1953-56, edited by Reynaldo Cruz Ruiz and Rafael Borges Betancourt (Santiago de Cuba: Ediciones Santiago, 2008), and Enrique Olutski, Gente del llano (La Habana: Ediciones Imagen Contemporánea, 2000) are standouts among Cuban studies and memoirs of the revolt that toppled Batista. Readers seeking a single-volume introduction to the Cuban Revolution and its most charismatic figure should pick up Jon Lee Anderson's magnificent biography, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (New York: Grove Press, 1997).
How has that Revolution turned out? What's Cuba under Castro really like? Among sociological studies, Inside the Revolution: Everyday Life in Socialist Cuba, by Mona Rosendahl (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997) and Fidel Castro and the Quest for a Revolutionary Culture in Cuba, by Julie Marie Bunck (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994) follow ordinary cubanos' experience of socialism into the Special Period. For Cuba before the Soviet collapse, see Juan M. del Aguila, Cuba: Dilemmas of a Revolution (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1984) and Wilbur R. Chaffee and Gary Prevost, editors, Cuba: A Different America (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 1988). For what's coming, Daniel P. Erikson, The Cuba Wars: Fidel Castro, the United States and the Next Revolution (New York: Bloomsbury, 2008) offers one intriguing U.S. perspective.
Among norteamericano journeys in Cuba, my two favorite reads are Tom Miller Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels through Castro's Cuba (New York: Atheneum Books, 1992) and Ben Corbett, This is Cuba: an Outlaw Culture Survives (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Westview Press, 2002), memoirs written with open hearts and wise eyes.
William Craig is a dynamic and engaging reader. In addition to readings from Yankee Come Home, he is available for book club chats, writing workshops, A/V-augmented lectures and travelogues on US and Cuban history and culture, and teaching at the secondary, undergraduate and graduate levels.