Face of the revolution
Volker Skierka's Fidel Castro: A Biography was first published in Germany in 2000 but has been updated for the American edition. It is a meticulous accounting of Castro's rise to power, his frequent run-ins with his more cautious Russian supporters and his close but ambivalent relationship with Che Guevara, who, as the author demonstrates, was the political purist Fidel could never afford to be. Skierka provides a valuable sketch of what Cuba was like under Castro's predecessor, Fulgencio Batista, and his allies in the American Mafia. It may surprise some to learn that Castro was a childhood admirer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, even going so far as to write him a "fan letter," a copy of which is reproduced in the book. Skierka includes a detailed bibliography, 16 pages of photos and a list of relevant CD-ROMs and websites. While he has no illusions about Castro's flaws or Cuba's unrelenting turmoil, Skierka concludes that, "Identification with the revolution is still high among ordinary people, including many young people, and it will outlive [Castro]. One thing Cubans certainly don't want is to return to the old dependence on the great neighbor to the north."