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WORM by Edel Rodriguez Kirkus Star


A Cuban American Odyssey

by Edel Rodriguez ; illustrated by Edel Rodriguez

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2023
ISBN: 9781250753977
Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

A renowned graphic artist and painter writes of his early life in Cuba and later life in U.S. exile, finding parallels in both countries, “where men with guns made the decisions.”

Born in 1971, Rodriguez came of age in the Cuban countryside, where, owing to an entrepreneurially minded father, the family sometimes had a little more food than their neighbors. Both parents knew how to navigate the system: “Mamá would never mention Fidel Castro’s name. When referring to him, she would quietly rub her cheek to indicate Castro’s beard, so that no passing neighbors would hear her speaking of El Comandante.” It was their children’s being spirited off to school to be indoctrinated, among other things, that convinced the parents to abandon their homeland and join the Marielito boatlift of 1980. They arrived in the U.S. and rebuilt their lives, with Rodriguez working odd jobs until moving to New York to attend art school. Rodriguez emerged there as a critic of Donald Trump’s presidency so well known as to draw down denunciation from the man himself. To that, the author has a simple reply: “To an immigrant like me, America is a dream, a land of freedom and opportunity where one can work and express oneself without fear of violence or political persecution. For me, January 6, 2021, shattered the dream.” A few scenes, such as those depicting time spent in a holding camp before boarding their boat to freedom, might have been condensed in the interest of heightening the drama. Nonetheless, the well-rendered graphic story is plenty dramatic on its own, and it’s significant not just for its portrayal of Castro’s Cuba but also for offering evidence that the Cuban American exile community is not politically monolithic.

A sharply observed document of totalitarianism and its discontents—this gifted artist in particular.